Over the past decade a number of providers have built their own
directories and often linked them to their proprietary products for
children’s or adults social care and family services. Each directory
would be limited to a specific council area. And probably limited to
an organisational remit – it may have been commissioned by the council
to host a wide range of social care services but it’s likely it didn’t
include NHS commissioned services, or things commissioned by Early
Years to support wellbeing and pre-school education. So a person
trying to find services would need to find and choose the right
directory before they began searching for services. And often would
find that the service directory was categorised in a way that made
sense to experts who knew the terminology.
At the February 2019 MHCLG Local Digital Roadshow in Bristol, I
listened to Tom Dixon from Devon County Council describing a common
problem that the “Open Community” collaborative project aims to
tackle – how should people living on the geographical boundaries of a
local authority find services that are nearest to them, when the data
is trapped inside separate directories? This and other issues are the
reason that the project wants to develop a standard for service
directories so that data is described in a common way, and APIs could
be developed to enable searches across multiple directories.
So let’s assume that Council A has bought a standards-based directory
service from Placecube, and that neighbouring Council B has bought a
standards-based directory from another provider. Because we’ve both
implemented the same data structures and APIs, a front-end website, or
app, or aggregation service can interrogate both directories with ease
and present results to someone looking for services that are
hyper-local to them… just like you’d expect from a “search this area”
interface on a map.
Building products to standards that mean they can connect to each
other in known and repeatable ways helps us to move the market further
towards the commodity end of the evolution axis. I reworked the
Wardley Map from my last blog post to indicate where a range of
activities and assets required for local digital services could move
up the axis, deeper into the product + rental area.
Of course this assumes that a number of things change in Local
Government – that the emerging improvements in collaboration that we
have seen as the Local Digital Fund supports multi-council projects
will be sustained, and that they will produce the kinds of valuable
products that enable reuse. We need user research that’s published
openly for all councils and suppliers to share through something like
Hackney’s User Research Library, service patterns
and design guidelines published in the way that the VerifyLocal team
did – perhaps through the evolution of Pipeline and better signposts to council code on GitHub.
In my next post, I will focus in on how Placecube thinks of “reusable
cubes” and the standard attributes that they need if we are to build
an open ecosystem where multiple suppliers can provide a variety of
services to organisations working across the network to support better
outcomes for people in their local place.
Beckett – Executive Director, Product Research &
This blog was originally posted on the Placecube
website where you can find out more about Digital Place.