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Demystifying ‘digital’

When did 'digital' become a new buzz word?

Am I old if I confess that it reminds me of Casio watches and grey-faced alarm clocks without hands? Probably . . . But what (apart from these important 80s inventions) does it mean to me now? Well, the answer is a lot more than its dictionary definition, which includes 0s and 1s.

Digital gets easier to define if you think of it as a short version of 'digital transformation'. Digital transformation is about simplifying everything we do – bringing the focus back to the user / human being. It’s about designing processes and systems so they’re logical, easy and clear. If you've bought car tax online recently this is a great example: you answer about three questions and then all the checks happen in the background.

So, new digital stuff is being developed with users at the core. This is exactly what we’re doing with our new london.gov.uk website. We've spoken to real Londoners from the start, and continue to show them the website throughout its development, so that we can incorporate their feedback as we go. Thinking in this new digital way has encouraged us to really collaborate with our users – the Londoners we serve.

Digital channels are allowing us to take this collaboration even further. We are now able to crowd source ideas and to crowd fund the money to deliver these ideas. The Mayor’s Space Hive shows this in action: it allows us to engage Londoners directly (which has historically been more of a borough role) and to fund small projects. These projects make a real difference to people's local streets – and we can now do this on a large scale.

A great aspect of this digital revolution is that it’s an open one. Developers share code and data, allowing more developers to build even more new things. Our London Datastore has been leading the way here for some time.

All of this points to the fact that ‘digital’ is a mentality. It allows everyone to think outside of the norm, and encourages us to be innovative and creative in a way that hasn’t really been possible before.

So, to wrap up my ramble (sorry blog), my definition of ‘digital’ includes the following:

• simplification and clarity

• user-centred design

• better user engagement and collaboration

• access to a wealth of ideas (and maybe funding)

• ‎sharing and harnessing a wealth of data

• (not forgetting) Casio watches and calculators!