To consider the attached report (C-002-2019/20)
That the Cabinet endorsed the Essex & Herts Digital Innovation Zone ‘Digital Innovation Strategy’.
The Strategic Projects Portfolio Holder introduced the report on the Essex and Herts Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ). He noted that with Epping Forest DC leading, the Essex & Herts Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) comprised of five district council areas, (two in eastern Hertfordshire and three in Essex) and involved partners from various public bodies including the health economy, both tiers of local government, further and higher education, business and the voluntary and community sector.
The partnership had jointly commissioned a strategic long-term overarching strategy in conjunction with Arup. The strategy clearly set out long-term ambitions and an understanding of the area’s current and future digital strengths and challenges. It did however also include a series of recommendations for immediate action at an operational level to improve digital performance and service levels.
The strategy was now complete and was considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 16 April 2019. A copy of the strategy was included with papers for that meeting and can be found at: https://rds.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=395&MId=9717. The strategy was now presented to Cabinet for consideration and endorsement.
Councillor H Whitbread asked about how this would engage with elderly persons. The Strategic Projects Portfolio Holder replied that this was fundamental to the strategy, an example would its focus on keeping people at home longer; the smart home approach using new technology such as the digital health strategy. Currently they had just signed up to a £2.1million project, and were now waiting for confirmation, this was a project for equipping 113 GP surgeries across the zone with our broadband services.
Councillor Patel said that he had been following the progress of ‘DIZ’ since it started. He would like to know what resources and investments had gone in and what the return was since the start. The Strategic Projects Portfolio Holder noted that the majority of the contributions had come from our partners, although we had put in a small amount of money. Our resource input came mostly from Mr Warr and Mr Houston in the form of their time. As for investments we had invested about £450k and had achieved £10.5million investment from the Government. Councillor Patel remarked that this was very impressive and put Epping Forest District Council at the forefront of this innovation and was sighted as a model for other local authorities. Councillor Lion agreed noting that we had been recognised by national government for this unique strategy. It was a good model to replicate.
That the Cabinet endorsed the Essex and Herts Digital Innovation Zone ‘Digital Innovation Strategy’.
Reasons for Proposed Decision:
The strategy was to be formally adopted and endorsed by the full range of partners represented on the DIZ Board. This will be the first time in the UK where partners from the various tiers of local government, primary and secondary health care, further and higher education, local businesses and the community and voluntary sector have come together to agree an over-arching combined digital plan.
Other Options for Action:
Cabinet could choose to not endorse the strategy. This would make it difficult to formally launch the strategy as a single unified partnership. It would also impact on the ability of the DIZ to bid for funding from central government who have previously recognised the make-up of the DIZ partnership and its unique nature as a key strength and reason to support.