CIO Masters Series: David Wilde, CIO of England's Essex County Council

A look at the work and vision of David Wilde, CIO of England's Essex County Council, who is a leader in public-sector IT innovation.

By Matthew Griffin
Oct. 25, 2016

The ECC is now "digital by default" but as many of us know "being digital" is all well and good if you can access the new digital services at an appropriate speed. As anyone who lives in the countryside will tell you, online services are only useful if you can connect to them, and I for one should know better than most people. While I work in London, I live in the middle of a farming community sucking down broadband at less than 1MB while my phone flicks between one bar of signal and Edge and GPRS. YouTube has to buffer, downloading Apple's OS X updates take days, and I'm not going to be a Netflix customer anytime soon.

If I lived in Essex, though, I wouldn't have that problem. Wilde, like many other industry leaders, knows that if you want to create new jobs, realize the benefits that digital offers or use digital as your preferred tool to innovate new services, then super fast countywide broadband is a must, and that's just what the Next Generation Access program, which Wilde is in charge of, is delivering. Costing £52 million, it's helping to connect over 120,000 premises (giving 95% coverage) to super fast broadband. Network provision across the county council has been increased tenfold and Wilde's Next Generation Network (NGN) program has helped converge voice, video, wired and wireless technologies, while reducing costs by nearly 20%.

The provision of super fast broadband, however, isn't just about helping people watch the latest installment of Game of Thrones. It's much more than that. Government studies in the U.K. and abroad have shown time and time again that companies that have access to modern network infrastructure outperform their rivals, in revenue terms, by up to 30%. It's no wonder therefore that it's one of the key criteria that companies use to evaluate the ROI for new investments, and Wilde knows this all too well. Again, ever the long-term strategist, he's focused on using the initiative to drive growth and jobs, and it's already paying off, attracting new businesses into the county and helping bring millions of dollars' worth of Chinese investment for Chelmsford's Medical Technology Accelerator. If you never thought you'd seeing Chinese dragons dancing down Chelmsford high street, you might want to think again.

It's all related

"Work is a thing you do, not a place you go," Wilde says. And therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise that over the past three years he and his team have aggressively taken steps to support telecommuting. By providing staff with the tools and training they needed to work from home, the council has seen productivity go off the charts, particularly on Fridays when the desks are empty and 2,000 concurrent users slam the system. Without the right super fast broadband infrastructure, though, the benefits from the initiative would have been diluted.

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