How joining the LocalGov Drupal collaboration is enabling us to deliver digital services for Essex residents

Dating back as far as the first “Hello, world!” was published on the internet, there’s been a driver for all organisations with a web presence to meet ever developing standards in line with what users of today expect and what our technology can deliver. Although we’re not on dial up anymore and events like Y2K are hopefully a thing of the past, we still experience websites and applications that don’t meet modern accessibility standards, aren’t consistently designed and need significant development resources to make even the slightest of changes. Subsequently, resulting in a poor web experience that doesn’t meet modern user needs.

Back in March of this year we shared a blog by our Director of Service Transformation, Ben Unsworth, on website capabilities and the technology that supports them, describing some of the challenges an organisation like a county council has across a web estate of over 60 independent sites.

Our original problem statement was this –

We are not alone

This isn’t a new challenge and it’s not unique to Essex County Council. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has just marked the 4th anniversary of the Local Digital Declaration. A collective of 45 local authorities and government bodies, including Essex County Council, co-published the Local Digital Declaration, committing to being part of an open and collaborative community with a shared vision for the future of local government digital services.

Following on from our commitment to the declaration in 2019 and our vision statement in March, we took our first steps by starting to rebuild our SEND Local Offer website, supported by our partners Invuse and Annertech. We’re now very excited to have started two major projects with our partner Nomensa:

  • The rebuild of our staff intranet as an open employee website
  • Re-platforming of our core services website,

This is what Nomensa had to say about the projects:

Nomensa are delighted to be working with Essex County Council in building these two sites, using the LocalGov Drupal framework.

We will deliver using Agile principles and creating a one team model with ECC. Through strong combined leadership and our expert governance, this partnership will ensure ECC achieve their goal of creating a better experience for users through joined up and well thought out digital service delivery.

LocalGov Drupal ensures we are delivering this, all whilst reducing cost and time burden on councils and being part of a wider community across local government.

Using technology that supports us

We’re building the next iterations of these sites on the open source and community driven LocalGov Drupal framework. This has been developed from the popular Drupal content management system by local authorities and supported by funding from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The LocalGov Drupal community is supported by a healthy supplier market and is kept up to date with the latest technology developments, meaning our sites won’t need to be completely overhauled every few years as the underlying technology evolves.

Our immediate priorities are rebuilding, our intranet, and the Essex Local Offer. Through this process, we’ll develop our approach to using LocalGov Drupal, working out how we use the features and styling the distribution to our brand principles. Once these sites are in place, it will enable our services to create and develop more meaningful, accessible, user centred content in line with our standards and user needs.

In the longer term, we’re planning our approach to our diverse estate of over 60 microsites and how the services they provide can benefit from this. The LocalGov Drupal platform will enable us to uphold the same high standards across more of the user journeys that our residents use. We’re very excited about the microsites functionality currently being developed by the core LocalGov Drupal team and look forward to seeing it in action.

This is a huge step for ECC towards meeting our ambitions with Everyone’s Essex in building modern, user-centred, end-to-end digital services.

Joining the collaboration

We’re delighted to be officially announcing our membership of LocalGov Drupal, as the 30th council to join. We look forward to working with our colleagues in other local councils and sharing our journey with the community.

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