Embracing a digital-first approach for Local and Regional Councils

For many local and regional governments in the UK, the ‘do more with less’ slogan is becoming more and more pertinent. Many councils are being told to limit their spending but still achieve high levels of satisfaction with the public services that they offer. One key element of spending that is being impacted is IT and its infrastructure, which forms the backbone of many public services.

The advances in cloud technology mean that council IT leaders can begin to explore alternative cost-effective solutions to counteract the cost and inefficiency of on-premise systems. Cloud technology is often less costly, more secure, offers greater scalability and, for councils, can help to streamline and join up public services that are rooted in innovative data and AI systems.

To reach this end goal, councils need to embrace a digital-first approach and start to break away from legacy systems, taking a cloud-first approach and embracing data and AI. But how do you get started?

The Digital-First Approach

A digital-first approach is not just a technological shift; it’s a strategic mindset that puts local and regional councils in a position to thrive in the digital landscape. As stewards of public services, they are increasingly recognising the importance of embracing digital transformation, particularly through the use of cloud technology and new data and AI systems. A digital-first approach not only recognises the importance of such technology but also the encompassing impact that this new tech can have on all areas of the council. A digital-first approach is a strategic imperative that can enhance efficiency, improve public services, and help foster innovation across the whole organisation.

  • With this new approach, a council can start to streamline internal processes, reduce paperwork and manual interventions, and give more time back to its teams. Automated workflows, digital communication channels and data-driven decision-making contribute to operational efficiency, allowing public resources to be allocated more effectively.
  • Prioritising digital channels for public services leads to improved delivery. Online platforms, mobile applications, and other digital communication tools provide people with convenient and accessible ways to get information, engage with council services and provide feedback.
  • Leveraging the power of data and AI empowers councils to make more informed decisions. By analysing vast amounts of data, a council can identify trends, anticipate the public’s needs, and optimise its services.

Cloud technology can act as a key catalyst to embracing this digital-first approach. For example, Microsoft Azure integration can offer complete flexibility, be cost-effective, has robust security and has a comprehensive set of AI and data tools at your fingertips, such as Copilot, Power BI, and much, much more.

Key Considerations

Embracing digital transformation and making the most of their vast quantities of data  holds great potential for local and regional councils. By prioritising data governance and security, investing in infrastructure, fostering upskilling programmes and engaging effectively with stakeholders, councils can pave the way for smarter and more efficient public services.

Data governance

Robust data governance underlines any successful data and AI initiative. Councils must establish clear policies for data collection, storing and sharing to make sure they meet all regulatory requirements. Maintaining high standards of data quality will enhance the accuracy and reliability of insights from AI, leading to improved public service offerings.


Taking the time to invest in modern and flexible cloud infrastructure is essential for councils to get the most from their data. Cloud solutions, which include secure data warehouses, can help with creating a seamless integration between different public services. A well-built infrastructure allows for the efficient use of data for AI and analytics tools.


For a successful digital-first approach, local councils will need to consider upskilling their workforce to  help overcome anxiety and job insecurity amongst their staff. Investing in team training in data analytics, AI and related technologies will ensure that a council has the necessary skillsets to get meaningful insights from their data. Upskilling is key to fostering a culture of innovation within your teams.

Stakeholder engagement

Good communication with council stakeholders is important when implementing new digital solutions. Engaging with internal stakeholders creates a sense of inclusion and transparency, and being able to demonstrate the benefits of data and AI as part of your business case helps to improve stakeholder support and adoption.

Ethics of AI

As a council IT leader, it’s important to consider the ethical implications of using data and AI systems. As part of your business case, make sure to create ethical guidelines for data usage and storage, ensuring fairness in AI and avoiding bias in these processes. Sticking to these ethical standards not only safeguards your information and the reputation of your council, but also promotes responsible data and AI usage.

A digital-first approach is not just a technology shift, it’s a change of strategic mindset that can help local and regional councils thrive in the new digital landscape. By prioritising infrastructure, public services and embracing new data and AI solutions, councils can pave the way for better and more cohesive public services. These key considerations outline a roadmap for councils that are looking to embark on this transformation journey – and we can help you get started.

Want to join other councils on this journey?

At Cloud Direct, we understand that using data and AI can be crucial to the success of public services in your council. As a leading UK Microsoft Solutions Partner and Azure Expert Managed Service Provider, we can assist you in your digital transformation journey and provide access to Microsoft nonprofit resources.

From your initial Azure migration to building a sound data strategy and implementing key Microsoft AI services such as OpenAI, Copilot, Power BI and more, our experts can help you kickstart your data and AI journey in the cloud. Get in touch today and find out more or book a free 1:1 Data and AI Innovation Workshop.