Mission 1: More user-designed services

Too often, smart city thinking has been driven by a rush towards integrating new digital technologies, without understanding citizens’ needs first. London’s creative strengths in design can play a major role. 

We want to respect the diversity of our great city when we develop new digital services and will work in collaboration with partners to build this into a city-wide approach. 

The Mayor is starting with the following initiatives:

  • leadership in design and common standards to put users at the heart of what we do
  • develop new approaches to digital inclusion to support Londoners' access to public services
  • launch the Civic Innovation Challenge to spur innovation from the tech sector
  • explore new civic platforms to engage citizens and communities better
  • promote more diversity in tech to address inequality

Leadership in design and common standards

The Mayor will champion the adoption of common standards and design principles in public services to put users at the heart of what we do.  

Design is an important and sometimes overlooked part of digital services and technology, but it is vital in making sure the right problems get solved, or are free from bias. This approach means understanding how your users think, how they behave and ultimately what they need, then incorporating that understanding into every aspect of design, backed up with evidential data to enable the right problems to be solved.

Common standards, including the forthcoming Government Service Standard, will help to make this possible. Just as the GLA worked with peers to develop and promote the Local Government Digital Service Standard in 2016, we believe common standards can help London to scale services across organisational boundaries and increase the pace of delivery by sharing data, processes, components, services and platforms to serve citizens better - for example, better online services will improve access to travel.

Develop new approaches to digital inclusion

The Mayor will develop new approaches to digital inclusion to support citizens who need to go online to access public services.

Lack of access to a computer, good digital connectivity and basic digital skills hold some citizens back from finding work and from accessing public services and financial support. The GLA is evaluating the success of the MiWifi programme in Lewisham for the over-50s and unemployed where, from June 2017 to January 2018, Lewisham residents were able to borrow a tablet for up to four weeks and offered six hours of digital skills training. The next two years will see the implementation of online-only Universal Credit (2018) and smart energy meters (by 2020), both of which will require specific approaches and potential support adopting in London if further exclusion is to be avoided.

While poor digital skills can limit the ability of a citizen to get the most from online services, a lack of digital understanding can expose people to misinformation, ‘fake news’ or online fraud. This is defined by Doteveryone as “the ability both to use technology and to comprehend, in real terms, the impact that it has on our lives”.

An emphasis on service design presents an opportunity to look at inclusion afresh, including an understanding of users from every background. For example, we want to ensure that there are no barriers that might prevent anyone who is hard of hearing or has visual, cognitive or motor impairments from accessing a digital service. We will work with city services to encompass this new thinking. 

Civic Innovation Challenge

The Mayor will launch his Civic Innovation Challenge. This is a mission-led business support programme which matches startups with leading corporates and public organisations to solve some of London’s most pressing problems. In 2018-19, the Challenge is searching for innovative solutions to reduce inequality, prevent climate change and support London’s ageing population.

Another way of meeting citizens’ needs is to offer innovation prizes to the tech community to help solve public service or urban problems identified by the city or directly by citizens. In other cities these initiatives have successfully co-designed and tested ideas that can be scaled up to meet the needs of the whole city. Examples from the UK and around the world include Amsterdam’s Startup in Residence, New York’s NYCx Challenges and CivTech Scotland.

The Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge is part-funded through the London Economic Action Partnership and TfL, and will learn from work already underway with London Councils’ established London Ventures programme. It will be delivered by Bethnal Green Ventures, a tech accelerator with a focus on supporting firms using technology for social impact.

Startups taking part in the challenge will develop and test their solutions with corporates and public organisations, while receiving business support and mentoring from Bethnal Green Ventures. The Challenge provides startups with the valuable opportunity for customer development and validation directly with the end market, including:

  • direct access and support from potential customers and partners
  • validate and test solutions directly with market leaders
  • business support and access to £15,000 for testing

In the future, the public will also be directly involved in deciding the focus of and setting future innovation challenges, which could be in areas such as housing or education.

Renew civic platforms  

Talk London - The Mayor will mount digital campaigns to increase levels of participation from more diverse audiences; invest in technical development to optimise user journeys and maximise community growth; and target advertising to build brand awareness, confidence and participation in the work of Talk London in our target audiences.

New crowdfunding platform for London - The Mayor will support Crowdfund London with £4m to support projects and scale up the platform by 2022. This includes research and development of complementary initiatives to support community-led participation and regeneration.

New platforms - The Mayor will explore the changing ways in which Londoners are using civic platforms, rapidly prototyping and testing different models for delivering this innovation in partnership with London's tech community.

Civic and peer-to-peer platforms offer better ways for citizens and communities to interact and co-create - capitalising on trends and changes in technology that have unlocked new opportunities for citizens to play a more active role in the way London is run. Through our open government and city-wide collaboration work proposed below there will be an opportunity to examine how new digital platforms can be adopted in London to increase transparency or boost the sharing economy. For the present the GLA will look at developing two of its platforms - Talk London and Crowdfund London.

The development of compelling, accessible and highly shareable online content has the capacity for huge audience reach, and even media coverage. ‘Your Commute’, developed as part of the Listening Tour, increased participation in Talk London - our 42,000-strong online community where Londoners can tell us their opinions on London's big issues through surveys and discussion forums. Initiatives like this to increase the diversity of Talk London will be crucial when we discuss citizen views on the use of their data in public services.

Crowdfund London is our digital platform for citizens to help shape their neighbourhoods. It allows anyone to propose an idea, develop it and coordinate local support, resources and funding through a public campaign. City Hall pledges funds to live campaigns, helping to catalyse success, and support local groups to make ideas a reality. The initiative has been recognised internationally as an exemplar in Government innovation and is one of the most advanced public sector-led programmes to blend digital alternative financing models with public funds to deliver social impact and promote active citizenship.



The mayor pledged £11,000 on top of the £27,000 raised through the Crowdfund London platform to support the ‘Colour in Romford’ campaign. Local people proposed ideas for murals, which were created by artists to boost civic pride

Promote more diversity in tech

Digital Talent Programme - The Mayor is delivering a £7m programme to inspire and train more young women and BAME Londoners to enter digital, technology and creative job roles. This year will see three more initiatives to build on the launch.

Tech Talent Charter - The Mayor will sign the Tech Talent Charter and promote it across London public services. We will work to encourage the tech community to adopt the charter in greater numbers.

The tech sector has been criticised for its lack of diversity: the 2018 Tech Nation report found that only 19 per cent of the digital tech workforce is female, compared to 49 per cent across all UK jobs. This has to change - gender equality is the cornerstone of the Mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign. The city has a responsibility to lead change in 2018, a hundred years after some women first secured the right to vote.

The Tech Talent Charter is a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater gender diversity in the tech workforce of the UK, one that better reflects the makeup of the population. This includes organisations across all sectors who have employees in tech, public and private sectors. Signatories of the charter make a number of pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. As a first step, the GLA Group will commit to the pledges in the charter to demonstrate the great work being done on diversity throughout many organisations.

To support diversity at entry-level jobs for young people, the Mayor’s Digital Talent Programme increases training in digital technology with new industry-approved courses for 16-24 year olds. It focuses on attracting more young women and Londoners from a range of backgrounds to work in the sector. It supports collaboration between training providers, schools, further education colleges, universities and employers to ensure that young people have the skills that employers are looking for.

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