As districts, like all organisations, we are now having the final push to ensure we adopt the GDPR rules which come into effect from 25 May. This has been another ‘slow burn’ of a significant data management rules change and I have admiration for all the staff in our organisations who have embraced the changes, worked to make it work and accommodate the many communication messages to ensure business as usual.
I know that as a recipient of many online services I am currently ticking boxes to confirm I want to subscribe to news and updates, and I agree to terms and conditions. In local government we have an ethical duty to ensure we are transparent regarding the use of data and maintain our residents’ confidence and act in their best interests.
In light of this, and how consistently we hear how important it is to have a web and social media presence, my interest was piqued to learn Wetherspoons has taken a decision to withdraw its customer social media. This seems like a bold move in current times. However, their rationale for doing so sounded reasonable, that the cost of staff time and resources spent updating and responding to online queries was too high and inconsistent and therefore was taking focus from their core business.
It reminds me how social media can be a distraction, and how important it is to maintain a focused communication presence within the organisation, ensuring we do not get stuck on fads or fashions and embrace real innovation. I am fascinated Weatherspoon’s have automated their food and drink ordering process through an app meaning you can enter a bar and not converse with anyone.
With this in mind, I believe districts should be considering how much innovation and research money they can allocate to mechanisation. The growing arena of robotics and automisation is, I believe, an untapped and undiscovered area within local government. It was covered at the recent The MJ Future Forum event and I believe the most enlightened districts will be pursuing this agenda. However, while technology can help us streamline and become faster and fitter, I think it will be important to analyse the costs associated with the emerging technology.
The opportunity is there with the new data protection laws to navigate a path that fulfils the right to privacy with the need to provide information.
Allen Graham is chief executive of Rushcliffe BC