The City of Edinburgh Council approves three-year digital smart city strategy

The City of Edinburgh Council has adopted a new three-year digital strategy to progress its ambitions for becoming a sustainable smart city.

The Digital and Smart City strategy sets out principles for how the council’s future technology services should be designed, sourced and delivered and has been unanimously approved by members of the Policy and Sustainability Committee.

Aligned with 2050 vision

The strategy aligns with Edinburgh’s 2050 City Vision and sets out a new approach for using data and cloud-based technology to connect systems in the digital age, to provide even more accessible, secure and efficient services for residents.

There is also a focus on re-using, recycling and paperless technologies. In a statement, the city said the plan will guide the council to save money and reduce carbon emissions, too, in line with Edinburgh’s net-zero carbon by 2030 ambitions.

“We want to become a digital council and a world leading smart city, and this plan will help to get us there,” said depute leader, Cammy Day, the council’s smart cities lead. “At home and at work, we’re all increasing our use of technology to make our day to day lives simpler, greener and more connected.

“Likewise, digital is playing a major role in the way we operate as a council and we need to keep refreshing our approach so that we stay on top.

“We know that smarter technology helps us to provide even more user-friendly council services and better value for residents. This strategy will help us to keep advancing so that we can continue to meet the demands of a growing capital city like Edinburgh.

The key principles of the strategy are:

Re-use, before buy, before build: leveraging existing capability where appropriate, seeking to simplify the ICT estate; where customisation is required the council will seek alternative solutions; it will look in the marketplace for off-the-shelf products delivering the capability required; as a last resort, perhaps as innovation, it said it will build solutions

Focus on citizen- and customer-centric requirements: the citizen or customer will be considered first; where rationalisation and simplification of the IT estate can be achieved by implemented enterprise-wide solutions, the council will seek to do so

Be reliable, resilient, secure and performant: only solutions that improve service will be considered; it will ensure that solutions are designed to be resilient, secure, and efficient; it will gradually rationalise solutions which do not meet these criteria

Focus on the strategic over the tactical/reactionary: the council will focus on delivering new or changed capability in strategic solutions; it will avoid implementing tactical solutions where possible, recognising there may sometimes be a need to do so; solution decisions logged and any technical or service debt will be maintained in an architecture risk log

Balance delivery, quality, best value and scope: the council will focus on ensuring the delivery of quality solutions that offer best value and meet requirements; it will implement solutions that fit the needs of the business and take account of the wider estate and strategy

Work within agreed standards and be compliant with legislation: the council will align solutions to agreed standards, council policies and legislation

Continuous improvement and innovation: this is based on improving existing systems, leveraging proven successes, embracing modern collaboration, sharing tools, more accessible systems that require little- to no coding knowledge, cloud computing web service platforms, artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.

“Technology is a great enabler. We’ve seen it used in many ways we never thought of during this pandemic, not only to keep our own services running but to enjoy our festivals virtually and to visit our libraries online,” said Adam McVey, council leader.

He continued: “Our vision is to build on this and see Edinburgh become a leading smart city, opening up access to new technologies which benefit all of our residents, workers, visitors and businesses. We are already progressing a number of really innovative projects under our extended contract with CGI and this strategy will act as a guide for all of this work.

“This is about working together towards a more sustainable and inclusive service for the people of Edinburgh and providing the type of flexible and agile working a forward-thinking city like ours needs.”