Ideas from across the spectrum

Phil Barrett12th June 2015

My story: Dylan Roberts, Chief Information Officer, Leeds City Council

My role as Chief Information Officer for Leeds City Council enables me to have a city wide view of both the impact and opportunity that digital technology offers for the City. I believe that we are at the edge of a significant step change in the IT industry, an industry I have been involved with my whole working life.

My interest in technology and computing began many years ago with my first ZX Spectrum 48k . This ignited something and although I have moved from being a YTS trainee,  a programmer, an application developer and a number of other IT roles to where I am now, I still see a resonance back to the 16 year old me, playing on his ZX Spectrum 48k .


We know that there are still those 16 year olds playing on computers in their bedrooms but, now, because of the changes in the digital technology landscape and the proliferation of open technology, those 16 year olds are able to create their own programmes, their own apps, their own code. It is this innovation, this drive towards change, that I want the organisations and citizens of Leeds to harness.

I am constantly amazed at the capability and potential of individuals to make significant and positive contributions to the lives of each other and the world in general. The advances in information and technology in this first digital decade are empowering individuals and communities to develop and deliver new innovations and solutions faster and better than ever before.

I believe that today, through the use of the digital technology and the access to information, people can take more ownership and help develop better outcomes and lives for themselves, their families and communities without any intervention or support from the state.

This is a “flip”, almost a u-turn, away from the prevailing citizen – public sector relationship. It will enable us to focus more on outcomes rather than service delivery and the remaining public sector resources can then centre around those most in need. The new public sector role, especially across localities is, in my view, to provide and facilitate an environment where innovation can flourish and at the same time make sure that everyone, regardless of wealth or opportunity gets to benefit and live better lives. Digital provides the opportunity for the public sector to be a broker of services between people ‘s citizens needs (demand side) and providers of digital solutions and services; i.e we set the standards the market provides.

I know that we face issues of digital literacy and access and I would like to see organisations working together to address this but the delivery of real, tangible and effective solutions by individuals and communities shows the value of investing in digital literacy programmes.

A recent people driven digital event I attended in Leeds (see blog entries here demonstrated this bottom up innovation in abundance. This included a group of people who were taking a lead role as part of their communities to ‘unleash the people-driven digital innovation in health and wellbeing. People like Shirley Ayres, Annie Coops and Sheldon Steed who understood the user requirements, as they were users themselves. They understood the power of digital and are developing new solutions to deliver better lives for their own communities . For example, we had ‘Apps’ to manage diabetes; sensors to manage colostomy bags; solutions to help manage Parkinson’s disease; solutions to network communities and social applications to support. All these had been developed ‘bottom up’ through co-production, all were user centric in design as a result meeting specific needs and all are proving to be effective.

Flip chart

Similar to the challenges facing citizens, public sector professionals and practitioners are also, in many cases, hampered by the lack of solutions and innovations that are designed to meet their specific requirements. This, in part, is also because of the lack of ability to integrate the information captured across multiple systems and, of course, to provide an integrated view of the citizen record. Often, the IT solutions developed to support public sector organisations are cumbersome and expensive and tie buyers in to long term contracts.

The opportunity of working with Tony Shannon and Phil Barrett on the Integrated Digital Care Record (now Ripple) , being able to lead the Health and Care Pioneer Informatics community, building on the thinking of visionaries like Mark Thompson (co-author of Digitizing Government) is fantastic. It has provided me with the opportunity to be part of shaping this new environment which allows services from different innovators to be combined to better support our public sector professionals. It will deliver capabilities to underpin better lives for people and provide good value from our technology investments, moving us away from what is often expensive vendor lock in.

The aptly named Ripple project and community is a first foundation; an approach which is open (in all aspects of technology, standards and working practices). It is one which is collaborative with a philosophy to remove the inherent structures, boundaries and controls that are all too prevalent in the ICT industry and across public service organisations. A means of integrating patient records is the start to integrating services that support the better care and wellbeing of people across the whole of a community and the systems that support it – the whole of place.

This, to me, is one of the first practical and deliverable steps towards the local aspiration of ‘Place As A Platform’. The move nationally is to a more devolved approach to service delivery and development – where things are dealt with at a much more local level. The process and drive that underpin Ripple will be a digital foundation layer to delivering public services across “place” whilst also significantly challenging the digital sectors and the traditional IT industry to compete on functionality not based on lock in to closed solutions and licence deals.

We, as leaders in Public Sector Digital and Information, are in a unique position. Through close collaboration and involvement in projects like this which help system shifts gain momentum, we are able to help build better lives to the people of the UK. We can do this within the current challenging financial context and increasing demands on services. This disruption of the technology market can deliver better value for all.

If you are a Digital or Informatics Leader working in Health and Care check out and get involved.

And if you have a ZX Spectrum hiding in your attic, they are now fetching over £80 on ebay!


about 4 months ago RippleOSI @rippleOSI
RT : Delighted w new Gartner Report: Evaluate openEHR Standards for Managing Clinical Content Across the Care Continuum https://t.c…