by Edward Qualtrough

Smarter cities can ease public sector austerity, says Leeds CIO

Feb 20, 20143 mins
GovernmentIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Smart cities provide one of the answers to enable us to do more for less and aid the public sector during austere times, according to Leeds City Council CIO Dylan Roberts.

Roberts, appointed to the UK government National CIO Council in July 2012, was discussing his work to make Leeds a Smart City with Helen Beckett.

Opening up data sets to third parties and entrepreneurs is an area Roberts sees progress being made in West Yorkshire, saying more and more applications were sprouting up and creating value for citizens.

“In terms of the big challenges we’ve got as a country, especially in the public sector in these times of austerity,” Roberts said, “I think smart cities provide one of the answers to enable us to do a lot more for less.

“Within Leeds we’ve got the term Civic Enterprise, which is, frankly, trying to get other people to do what we’ve traditionally done. And that’s through doing things smarter across the city.”

But Roberts warned it was important to remember that engagement with people was always the focus, rather than the digital technologies joining things together.

“Smart cities are the means to an end, not the end itself,” he said.

“It’s not about the technology – although you have to have a very good technology foundation and what I’d call a digital city foundation – but that’s the foundation to a smart city.”

Roberts said that while Smart Cities are likely to be a collaboration between the government and the citizens, the CIO fits in by focusing on the big challenges and opportunities and engaging across the partnership.

“CIOs need to think outside of the traditional boundaries of their organisation, away from the tradition of implementing systems and instead thinking about the effects of consumerisation and the Internet of Everything.

“Their role is in talking to equivalent CIOs in other organisations across the partnership,” he said.

“Linking up with people who are enthusiastic in the first instance and delivering value.”

Roberts said that one of the successful projects underway in Leeds at the moment was in the health sector, while the city was also investigating open data to finding new areas to deliver digital services.

“We created the Leeds Innovation Health Hub in November 2013. It brings together key practitioners from all the different health organisations, and also works with entrepreneurs to help deliver new solutions,” Roberts said.

The hub is aimed towards creating a robust and open platform in healthcare. It is related closely with open source and open standards, and is underpinned by architecture based on the openEHR architecture – an open standard specification governing electronic health records.

“Through that we’ve developed the Leeds Care Record, where data from each of our systems is provided through a portal which can be viewed by all the partners that are allowing us to provide better care,” he said.

“We’ve also developed an Open Data prototype platform for the city – not for the council – where different partners push their data in and we make that data available for entrepreneurs to hopefully create new value. But it’s a fairly new project which we’re currently in the delivery stage of.”