In conversation with Steven Fry: how Salford came out on top at DL100 2018

Earlier this year Salford launched the ‘Digital You’ project, can you briefly explain the purpose and scope of this new campaign?

Salford has a bold ambition to be a Digital City using digital transformation to ensure the Council’s services are a great experience for everyone. We want to make sure no one is left behind as digital becomes the way to access services, communicate with organisations, and interact with friends and family. This isn’t just about transforming a service, it’s about transforming the lives of our residents. Our Digital You project is a key part of our vision to create a better, fairer Salford. Improving digital literacy helps us tackles issues such as social isolation which helps improve health and wellbeing and enables people access to learning and job opportunities. We are taking the digital barriers down, brick by brick, and have set an ambitious target of getting almost 8,000 people online by 2020, making the biggest possible impact for Salford residents.

What strategies are you using to ensure that vulnerable and excluded citizens in Salford can participate in the digital world?

Digital You is about working with Salford-based community organisations to support almost 8,000 residents over two years, 80% of whom must be facing social exclusion. Our partners Good Things Foundation are the UK’s leading digital and social inclusion charity which helps people to use and engage with digital to improve their lives. They are working with community organisations from libraries to housing providers to help reach disadvantaged people in the places where they live – familiar faces in trusted places – and help them engage with the digital world. Residents can learn basic digital skills and build confidence in local community settings so they have the capability to use the internet to do things that benefit them day to day.

Salford has successfully teamed up with both voluntary and private sector organisations to improve its digital services and skills. Can you explain why this is the case and why other local authorities should be looking to do the same?

We have been creating a social movement for change by involving stakeholders from public, voluntary and private sector, to pledge their support. We have been able to highlight where organisations, across sectors, can demonstrate their corporate social responsibility by supporting the movement to increase digital inclusion. Google supported our ambition with their Digital Garage Bus tour in Salford earlier this year which provided residents free digital workshops in places across the city including shopping centres. Another example is Talk Talk providing free kit as well as employees to volunteer as digital champions at online centres. Our aim is for Digital You to continue past 2020 until all residents in Salford are confident online, and link this to a skills escalator to match residents with growth in the city. Investing in digital skills for Salford’s residents is investing in the city’s future prosperity and brings potential life-changing economic, wellbeing and social inclusion benefits to the residents involved.

What will be your priorities moving forward into 2019?

We were delighted to be named Overall DL100 Winner 2018 (Digital Leaders) and Digital Council of the Year during Digital Leaders week, which recognises leading digital transformation in the UK. Salford won both awards for our bold ambitions and innovations in the way we are digitally transforming services to the public, and we want to build on that success by establishing Digital You across the city so that no one is left behind as digital becomes the way to access services, communicate with organisations, and interact with friends and family. We don’t want to stop at 8,000 residents, we are committed to ensuring that all residents are confident and capable to participate in the digital world.

Steven Fry is the Head of Customer Service at Salford City Council, and will be speaking on ‘Salfords Digital First Approach to service delivery’, at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November. To register or find out more, please click here.