Director of Neighbourhoods to deliver a presentation on an updated Digital Strategy for the Council.
The Committee received a presentation from the Director of Neighbourhoods that outlined a draft Digital Strategy for the authority. An extensive consultation on the proposals had been carried out including council employees, staff from the Council’s partner agencies (such as Your Trust and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing), Council members and the public.
In formulating a Strategy, the Committee was advised that it would be necessary to be mindful of any recommendations, underpinning the entire exercise is the recognition that a proportion of the population in Rochdale is digitally excluded, through lack of access to technology, wi-fi or lack of skills. The reasons for digital exclusion were predominantly associated with low income, age, disabilities, learning difficulties, ethnic origin, location, culture, language and lack of capability.
As council services become more prevalent online, significant numbers of people may miss out because they can’t or don’t have the motivation to engage digitally.Digital exclusion is not new but the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that it is a barrier for some people.
The Committee was advised that Equality Impact Assessments are required. The initial screening document highlighted the need for a Strategy to address digital exclusion and the scope for certain digital solutions (such as AI and machine learning) to exacerbate existing inequalities.A full Equality Impact Assessment will be undertaken in conjunction with consultation around the supporting Delivery Plan to the Strategy.
Work on the development of the Strategy has been taken up by the Policy, Performance and Improvement Team, within the Neighbourhoods Directorate. A broad internally facing consultation exercise within Council Directorates and NHS CCG around the draft Strategy, has been undertaken over the past few months. This has resulted in little deviation from the original draft and the incorporation of further achievements and progress. It has reinforced the fact that digital inclusion must be the top priority. An Internally facing Digital Strategy Working Group has been reconvened and widened. The initial focus of the Working Group will be the formulation of a linked Delivery Plan. It will also drive forward the engagement and consultation work around the delivery plan in the borough.
In terms of future developments the Committee were informed that the Digital Working Group was planning to host two workshops in the near future. The workshops will centre on the formulation of the Delivery Plan, which is linked to the Strategy. The workshops will provide specific focus on the resources required – both financial and staffing, to deliver the Strategy.
A further key area of focus will be the delivery of consultation with the public around the Delivery Plan and Digital Exclusion and there is a pressing need to establish an external facing Digital Partnership with other key Stakeholders in the borough to achieve the ambitions of the Digital Strategy.
The Committee was advised that this presentation was due to be submitted to the Cabinet in January 2022.
1. That the presentation outlining a draft Digital Strategy for the Council be noted, welcomed and supported.
2. That the Committee request the receipt of further update reports on this matter at future meetings.