A chat with Leeds City Council's Dylan Roberts on developing 'city as a platform'

Leeds City Council CIO's 'city as a platform' concept integrates cross-agency partners to deliver overall outcomes for the public benefit.

By Thomas Macaulay
July 3, 2017

Roberts believes the successful vendors of the future will need to collaborate to create products that meet individual needs through a mix of integrated software.

He has responded to the current problems of proprietary systems, silo thinking and a focus on revenues over services by working on ways to disrupt the market with IT professional bodies such as Socitm, the British Computer Society and techUK, and in his role as chair of the local CIO Council. His ambition is to create more open, dynamic, and standards-based systems to benefit the public.

The growing digital sector in Leeds has increased its potential for collaboration to benefit both business and the public sector and contribute towards a programme dubbed "Strong Economy, Compassionate City".

Tech companies in Leeds can use the city as a platform concept to gain a deep understanding of the local issues that are relevant throughout the country. They can base themselves inside the city to test their ideas and learn from a network of collaborators and then scale them up and sell the developed product across the UK.

Among the products the council has co-produced is a "bus clock" for care settings, an analogue device that tells owners exactly when the next bus is going to arrive. The product has increased the number of older people using the buses in Leeds by 18%.

Attracting the necessary investment to help the company behind the bus clock scale and sell the product is now Roberts' principal objective.

"The big challenge for me is getting some more of these prototypes scaled to be sustainable solutions, and that's really hard, especially when you consider the mega vendors are doing everything they can to crush some of those new innovations," he says.

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