A new strategy for harnessing the power of digital technology to transform service delivery and drive economic growth whilst maintaining Northern Devon’s unique environment has been unveiled.

The Digital Northern Devon Strategy, developed by PCSG in collaboration with North Devon Council and Torridge District Council, is believed to be the first such strategy to be produced by a rural authority.

The document sets out the joint vision of North Devon and Torridge District Councils to harness digital to ‘deliver the right kind of economic growth, with the greatest value for local communities, coupled with the best kind of environmental protection to safeguard our beautiful area’s future.

Developed with contributions and input from a range of public and private stakeholders, the strategy sets out the case for embracing digital and the potential benefits it offers in key areas such as the provision of services, employment and housing. It warns too of the risk of not harnessing a digital approach with the potential impact of the region being ‘left behind’.

It stresses though that any change must incorporate and protect the unique characteristics of the region’s stunning natural environment and the quality of life it offers.

It also details three strategic priorities to support the vision and unlock the benefits of a Digital Northern Devon:

  • Getting people digital: presenting a clear need case for connectivity
  • The ‘right’ kind of economic growth: balancing quality of life and protecting the natural environment with increasing efficiency and productivity
  • Unlocking potential through collaboration: using shared data and information to transform service delivery in planning, housing, health and social care.

Executive Member for Economic Development, Councillor Pat Barker, said: “We’re really excited to launch our Digital Strategy, which is the first step on a journey to understanding the opportunities that digital technology can present for our region.

“We launched the strategy at a breakfast briefing last week and it was warmly welcomed by local businesses and partners. Our next challenge will be delivering some of the solutions we’ve identified and translating the strategy into an action plan that is achievable. Hopefully this will translate into increasing productivity and harnessing the power of the future today. Watch this space!”

Councillor Bob Hicks, Lead Member for the Economy at Torridge Council, said: “This strategy brings a focus to an important area for potential economic growth in the region.

“We look forward to working with our partners to deliver practical solutions that will have a tangible impact on improving the area’s competitiveness and to harnessing the benefits of digital platforms and technology.”

Susie Tomson, PCSG’s Sustainability Director, is leading our work with the councils. She said: “Local councils around the country are recognising that there is significant opportunity to grasp the power of digital technologies not only to support their growth ambitions, but to significantly improve social and environmental outcomes for local residents and the many thousands of visitors they attract.

“Nowhere is this more true than in Northern Devon, where quality of life is a valuable asset. The right approach to digital will mean businesses and public sector service providers can deliver more for less and protect the unique character of the area.

“We are excited to have taken this first step with Northern Devon.”

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 400 local authorities, warned recently of the challenges faced by many rural communities around rapidly ageing populations, inadequate mobile and broadband coverage and a dearth of affordable housing.

Faced with these challenges and a squeeze in funding, an increasing number of local (particularly rural) authorities are exploring technology and the potential of digital as a route to delivering services more effectively, increasing productivity and delivering better lives for their communities.

In addition to Northern Devon, Susie, is also working in partnership with the Isle of Wight Council, Cheshire and Warrington LEP and Devon and Somerset’s Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP to help them examine the potential of digital technologies to create sustainable, resilient communities.

You can download the report here: https://www.northdevon.gov.uk/media/379084/pcsg-d-ndt-digital-strategy-final.pdf

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Susie.Tomson@pcsg.co.uk