Looking to digital innovation, post Covid-19, in connecting with citizens.

By Tiernan Mines, CEO Hello Lamp Post

I thought I’d take a moment to reflect and share my thoughts following many industry conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks, as well as share the exciting innovation we’ve been working hard on at Hello Lamp Post.

Here goes!…

Fifteen percent of the UK population lives alone. People who live alone are older, less financially secure, and report lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety than those living with a partner. In ten years, the number of single households is projected to rise to 10.7 million. On the other hand, vulnerable populations might include those who are older, have a secondary condition, or who have cultural or language barriers. Many people are struggling with truly significant psychological, financial, and social stresses of these uncertain times. For some, as the coronavirus forces them into social distancing, life becomes more a matter of survival. With a fifth of the world’s population currently on lockdown, this amounts to a significant number of people who live alone, or are in some way potentially vulnerable, lonely, and self-isolating.

The Economist reports that nine out of ten Britons support the lockdown measures, putting national and public health interests before their own. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has reported a growing epidemic of loneliness, with some 2.4 million people experiencing such feelings, even prior to the Covid-19 crisis.

Local authorities are not always equipped to handle community-wide crisis communications, which creates a need to prioritise automated outbound communication.

Local council teams are extremely resource-strained and must find new, more efficient ways to better serve and engage the public.

It can often be difficult for many people to navigate information about Covid-19 and council services, and people sometimes find it easier to simply contact their local council directly. However in the current climate, councils are struggling to meet the demand due to staff shortages.

I’ve recently been made aware by many councils of the diminished capacity to respond to a surge in citizen demand due to the Covid-19 crisis. It is challenging for local authorities to proactively share reliable, accurate and up-to-date Covid-19 and council services information, especially to a wide community. Some local councils have suspended vital bin collections due to staff shortages, and have asked residents to avoid contacting the council at all, if possible.

Local Councils are working collaboratively and doing remarkable work to share information to support the communications teams serving their communities. However, the strain will continue as demand from communities remains high. With a look towards digital innovation, this strain can be eased by automating people’s access to information, feedback/perception gathering, and community engagement as a whole. Sounds simple!

Innovative local authorities are pivoting and here’s how we’re helping.

Together with our council partners, we’ve created ‘Hello Council’; a unique, AI-driven ‘chat’ channel. Available on any mobile device or chosen website, it enables anyone, at anytime, to engage in a friendly conversation with their council. People can clear up questions they may have on Covid-19, government/council services or simply have a reflective chat.

We’ve developed ‘Hello Council’ to alleviate the strain on council teams and provide a 24/7 service across the public sector.

We’ve made sure that Hello Council is easy to deploy and can be up and running for a council within one week. The platform will keep citizens informed with targeted, accurate information round the clock, while simultaneously easing anxiety and alleviating pressure on help-desks.

There is no app to download and it can be accessed easily by any mobile device. Anyone can have a friendly text-based conversation via SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger (triggered by a QR code), or via a dedicated chat window on the council website.
 The chat platform can automatically give information on Covid-19, council services or simply provide a friendly conversational interaction..

  • Hello Council can continue to help beyond the crisis. By continuing to provide citizens with a simple chat platform, they can be guided through council services in an accessible, ‘self-served’ way.

  • We also hope to see improved wellness through lowered rates of loneliness and feelings of isolation by engaging in a friendly, reflective chat.

  • Councils will experience improvements in cost savings, with fewer council resources required to answer resident queries, and improved customer satisfaction rates.

We are working with local government who are using our Hello Lamp Post platform to help them engage citizens in new and meaningful ways. Local authorities use Hello Lamp Post to enhance their place marketing activities, improve public participation and engagement in consultations, and increase public trust with transparent two-way citizen outreach. They are also benefiting from increased revenue generation, cost savings, and gaining previously inaccessible insights to improve decision-making.

They, like many others, are having to adapt their strategy and services in the current crisis. We must not leave any citizens behind.

Just like other sectors, we must look towards digital innovation. By doing so, we can make shifts in easing anxiety and loneliness, increase engagement with our communities and keep all citizens informed 24/7, with up to date, reliable information they can trust.

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to get in touch: contact@HLP.city.

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