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UK Councils Save Millions With Smartphone Apps

Councils in the UK saved more than £200 million in 2009, through the use of innovative mobile apps and web services

Councils across Britain saved a total of £230 million last year by using cutting-edge location-based technology to manage and provide services.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), mobile web-mapping and satellite technology was used to improve the efficiency of refuse collection, provide up-to-date information about public transport services and keep people informed about roadworks and planning applications.

Location-based services and apps

In South Tyneside, for example, the council has used location-based information to create the ‘My South Tyneside’ web facility. This includes a property search facility for finding schools, libraries and other local facilities, as well as email alerts about local news and events. It is estimated that up to £146,669 of savings were made using the online service, compared to the previous system of dealing with enquiries over the telephone or face-to-face.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire Dales, Telford and Wrekin and Huntingdonshire District and Merton councils have launched a free iPhone app which shows the hygiene rating of pubs and restaurants, as ruled by council environmental health officers. Lancashire County Council has also launched a free app for people to send in photographs of bus shelter vandalism, while Lewisham Council has a similar program relating to fly-tipping and vandalism for use on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android.

Back in May it was reported that waste management company Biffa was giving RIM BlackBerry smartphones to its staff, enabling them to relay information between the company’s 1,500 refuse collection trucks and the Biffa head office in High Wycombe. The company claimed this enabled it to capture information – including proof of collection – more efficiently and identify the location of its vehicles.

“Whether it’s bin men working smarter, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres, freeing up staff from time-consuming checks or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has seen huge cash savings across the country,” said Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board.

“This is money which can be ploughed into vital frontline services on which millions of people rely each year, and is yet another example of councils striving to be more efficient to make their stretched budgets go as far as possible. As well as financial savings, tapping into gadgetry has led to better communication with all members of society, young and old, and raised awareness of the services councils offer and how to get the most from them,” he added.

Savings

LGA estimates that innovative location-based technologies and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372 million by 2014/15. It claims that, as residents become more comfortable with accessing information online and via mobile phones, issues can be resolved more quickly and the need for extensive paperwork will be reduced.

This has been one of the principal aims of the government’s digital champion Martha Lane Fox, who earlier this year announced plans to deal with the digital divide, helping the government get poorer citizens online – and saving millions on paper-based access to government services.

“This issue isn’t just about fairness,” said Prime Minister David Cameron at the time. “As Martha’s work shows, promoting digital inclusion is essential for a dynamic modern economy and can help to make government more efficient and effective.”

Despite this, however, it emerged in August that Lane Fox has been given no budget to get the last remaining ten million Brits online – a project which she intended to complete before the end of 2012.

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