Tag Archives: #smartbrum


Digital Birmingham’s Heike Schuster-James discusses her observations following a year working on the Future Council programme.

I have recently returned from a year-long secondment to the Future Council programme, where I helped initiate change in the organisation. In this post, I’m going to share some of my observations and in particular why digital culture matters.Future Council

For those that have not heard of the Future Council before, here is a summary of what it aims to achieve.  In brief, it’s about change on a major scale to make the council fit for the future because of external pressures such as diminishing budgets, changing demographics and growing expectations of citizens about what councils can do. And of course there have been a number of critical government reviews of the council’s activities (e.g. Kerslake Report) recommending improvements.

In response, Birmingham City Council brought together a range of activities to develop a new organisational culture, improve how we work in partnership with other organisations, develop neighbourhoods and change how we deliver frontline services and back-office functions.

DigitalWhy then is digital culture so important? Firstly, let me clarify what digital is about, because it is NOT about hardware or software or simply using social media.   A quote from one of my favourites, the Government Digital Services (GDS) blog (quoting Tom Loosemore) says: “Digital means applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations”

To make this statement a bit more tangible, think about:

  • social media and the direct communications they offer to anybody and how it promotes sharing of good ideas
  • open data and how it promotes transparency
  • how the internet empowers people because anybody can find information or set up a trade
  • agile development that promotes taking quick small steps, fail fast and improve.

Here are some examples of how digital culture could become a powerful tool to support the objectives of the Future Council:

Evidence based decisions and service design

Frontline services as different as social care, housing or waste management aim to work differently based on:

  • Understanding citizens and their needs better
  • Designing services based on citizens’ needs and demand for the service

This means getting the data, digesting it and talking to more citizens to qualify analysis results where necessary; sharing our ideas early and seeking feedback. Online media are an easy way to do this.


Frontline services aim to work differently based on:

  • Seeing people as bringing their own strengths i.e. everybody can be an asset
  • Enabling people to be independent and resilient
  • Learning from other organisations and seeing them as equal partners

This means talking to people at eye level and listening to them like we do in the hierarchy free world of social media.  It means to look outward and be curious like picking up suggestions from your favourite blog or Twitter stream.


Frontline and back-office services are due to undergo major changes to reduce costs through better response to customer needs and a lean approach. Thus improving customer satisfaction by focusing on what’s most important and at the same time cutting out unnecessary offers.

Most activities could benefit from an agile approach and it could be done at a really small scale. To resolve one problem in one team at the time, change one behaviour or communication when dealing with one group of citizens and see if it has the desired effect. If it doesn’t work, take note and try something different. If it does, try and apply in a wider context.


With so many changes planned that affect citizens and staff good communication becomes paramount. It means listening to others and the world wide web is a great tool to gain local insight by individually following the communities we serve online (web, blog, twitter, instragram… you name it) or by processing social media trends large scale for the organisation.

It means sharing and keeping people up-to-date for example through blog posts and tweets rather than press releases and the willingness to be challenged and engage in dialogue, with anybody.

Personally, my most exciting experiences last year were, when I got the chance to have a conversation with people, going out to meet the public at District Community Workshops and then turning things on their head by having a ‘listening post’ at TEDx Brum.

To contact Heike Schuster-James, please click here.

Digital Birmingham have been nominated for a #DL100 Award!

We are pleased to announce that Digital Birmingham have been included in this years Digital Leaders 100 listing and nominated for an award in the ‘Digital Council of the Year’ category for Birmingham City Council!

2016 Finalist Logo

It’s wonderful to be recognised for the teams continuous hard work in the areas of digital and smart and its lead in piloting and exploiting digital technologies to work towards developing an inclusive, sustainable & green economy.

Show your support by voting for us here http://www.digileaders100.com/vote/ – voting closes on Friday 27 May 2016!




Birmingham listed in top 3 of UK smart cities!

A Smart Cities Index Report – the first of its kind – commissioned and released earlier this week by Huawei UK has listed Birmingham as the 3rd smartest city in Britain ahead of the likes of Glasgow, Manchester and Leeds!

To be listed as a ‘contender’ in this report goes to show that the collaborative work we have undertaken with Birmingham’s Smart City Commission and with partners since the launch of the Birmingham Smart City Vision statement in 2013 has come a long way and it’s a great boost to be given this recognition on a national scale! Particular highlights in the report include the work being established around the East Birmingham Demonstrator and forthcoming HS2 related activities.

Further details and the full report can be found at http://www.huawei.com/en/news/2016/5/UKs-leading-smart-cities

BIS issues call for evidence for business broadband

This Call for Evidence aims to learn more about the fixed broadband needs of British businesses, both now and in the future.

In February 2016, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills announced a joint Review into Business Broadband by the Departments for Culture, Media and Sport and Business, Innovation and Skills, to explore the barriers facing businesses in accessing affordable superfast broadband. The announcement set out that the Review would look at:

  1. The broadband speeds that businesses need now and in the future;
  2. The barriers that exist for businesses to get the affordable, high speed broadband they need; and
  3. The issue of leased lines and the role they play in the market.

The aim of this Call for Evidence is to learn more about the fixed broadband needs of British businesses, both now and in the future. The connectivity needs of businesses will inevitably vary greatly depending on the size of business, their pattern of internet usage,
and the sector they are in, and as such, it is important that the Review and any resulting action properly reflects these differences.

Please provide responses to businessbroadbandreview@culture.gov.uk. Responses to this call for evidence should be limited to 3,000 words in total and responses must be received by 3rd June 2016.

For more information, please visithttps://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/business-broadband-review-call-for-evidence

Smart City Commission Journey

Follow the journey of Birmingham Smart City Commission through past meeting notes and papers.


Papers / presentations:

  1. East Birmingham Corridor Demonstrator-FCC.SW
  2. Incubator developments and activities-iCentrum Update-DH
  3. Incubator developments and activities-STEAMhouse update-JB
  4. Smart City Commission Governance-Executive and Smart Board for GBSLEP Region-DB.RM
  5. Smart City Commission Governance-Refresh Proposal-DB-v1.0
  6. Birmingham Smart City Activity Tracker 2015-16-14.01.16-v1.2


Papers / presentations:

  1. Data Workshop Update
  2. A Roadmap Framework for East Birmingham
  3. IOT Demonstrator-WM Regional Bid & other DB Bids
  4. Birmingham Smart City Activity Tracker 2015-16-v1
  5. The WMP2020 Blueprint


Papers / presentations:

  1. Future Council Programme
  2. E Birmingham Demonstrator-FCC
  3. Release of data-DB
  4. Open Data-Boilerhouse
  5. Refresh of Smart City Commission-DB
  6. Overview of Bids-DB


Papers / presentations:

  1. Thematic Presentations-Mobility-Amey
  2. Thematic Presentations-Health-Tim Jones
  3. Thematic Presentations-Skills-David Hardman
  4. Eastern Corridor-Spatial Context and challenges-DBLT
  5. Lessons from elsewhere-LD Arup


Papers / presentations:

  1. Discussion Paper_Birmingham Smart City_Effective_Commission_Working_04_11_14 FINAL




Data Workshop – 15 September 2015@ Impact Hub Birmingham

Presentations from the session are now available below:

Birmingham’s Smart City Commission invited key individuals with a keen interest in all things ‘Data’ and ‘Health’ to their share knowledge and expertise which will be key to enabling Birmingham to become an‘Open by Default’ city.

The work follows on from June’s Smart Commission meeting and the recommendation from Cllr Lisa Trickett for a Data Workshop to shape the development of the Open Data and wider Data agenda of the Birmingham region with a view to producing a briefing paper for wider circulation and adoption.

Smart City Commission Data Workshop
Hierarchy of Data Needs

Hosted by Impact Hub Birmingham and Facilitated by Robin Daniels, Managing Director of Redpill Group, the day included a case study contribution from Atos and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council/Public Sector partners on their Multi Agency Data Sharing:  Vulnerability Intelligence Project (VIS); and participants were asked to help determine the challenges/pain points, service engagement and data interactions in a ‘Day in the Life’ of an archetype citizen (focusing on the ‘Health of Older People’).

The workshop details can be viewed on Eventbrite.

Please post your comments and perspectives here as we would welcome your input.

Ofcom reveals UK is now a ‘smartphone’ society!

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online, Ofcom research has revealed, with record ownership and use transforming the way we communicate.

Two thirds of people now own a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours every day to browse the internet, access social media, bank and shop online.

Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report finds that a third (33%) of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online, compared to 30% who are still sticking with their laptop. More…

Wildlife Conservation Park reaps wireless benefits!

Staff at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park are being helped to carry out their daily tasks by Wi-Fi installed as a part of a city-wide scheme, the Wireless in Public Buildings Project, led by Digital Birmingham. See this short video from the launch

For connected buildings near you, please visit http://localview.birmingham.gov.uk/freewifi/

Google’s Digital Garage opens in Library of Birmingham

Google Garage

Google’s new Digital Garage in the Library of Birmingham to be growth engine for local business

  • Google’s pop-up ‘garage’ opens in Birmingham, one of five UK city centres
  • New research shows over half (51%) of small businesses say young people are not learning enough digital skills and nearly a third (29%) feel the cost of training is putting them off getting the basic digital skills they need
  • 200,000 businesses to get a digital ‘tune-up’ and free digital masterclasses from Google and partners
  • Google will nurture future digital talent by organising coding training sessions for 25,000 teachers

Google has today launched The Digital Garage at Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square. The Digital Garage is a multi-million pound initiative that will help 200,000 British businesses learn crucial skills for the digital age, and use the power of the internet to reach more customers and increase productivity.

The Digital Garage  Continue reading Google’s Digital Garage opens in Library of Birmingham

‘What data would you like to see open?’ asks Bham City Council

Birmingham Speaks LogoAs part of Birmingham City Council’s ongoing commitment to open data and to make it available via the Birmingham Open Data Factory https://data.birmingham.gov.uk/ – they have issued a call to gather the public’s thoughts and suggestions on types of data they would like the council to make available. This could be data the council currently holds but not yet published openly or data they would like to see ‘open’ in the future.

Note suggestions and join in the conversations here http://bit.ly/BrumDialogue