Five digital projects changing lives around the world

01 Vancouver

The first city in Canada to develop and implement a digital strategy, Vancouver continually aims to improve the ways in which residents can access city services and information.

“Our digital transformation initiatives across the organisation have delivered value and benefits to residents, staff, businesses and visitors,” says Jessie Adcock, City of Vancouver chief technology officer.

One of the most popular projects is VanConnect, a mobile app that enables users to view and access information about various city programmes and services anywhere, at any time. City dwellers can perform almost all their city-related transactions online through the app.

They can report graffiti, broken street lights and more, sharing the location and uploading a picture; they can get local, real-time information and community events, watch council meetings and connect with the mayor and council; and they get updates delivered to their phones.

Since its launch in 2015, the app has been downloaded more than 40,000 times with over 100,000 service requests submitted.

Also launched in 2015, #VanWiFi provides free public wifi at around 600 locations citywide, making it one of the largest free public wifi networks in North America. It was accessed by more than 280,000 users in 2017 alone.

02 Moscow

By the end of this year, all Moscow schoolchildren will have access to an online school, a cloud-based education platform holding 800,000 assignments, textbooks, tests, educational presentations and videos.

As classrooms are now equipped with individual wifi hotspots, laptops and multi-touch interactive 4K whiteboards, teachers can create customised lessons, assigning individual homework and additional lessons. They can also use the platform to create their own educational materials and share them with colleagues.

Within the classroom, children automatically join a lesson when it is launched on a teacher’s digital device and any who are at home sick can do the same. Pupils who have failed to understand something can also study the material independently at home.

The platform is available via any device, anywhere in the city. Teachers can manage marking and set assignments, pupils can see their schedule and homework, and parents can monitor their child’s performance. It also covers administrative functions such as after-school activities, the canteen and attendance registers.

The platform has been in use in six pilot schools since 2016. Since then their academic performance has improved by 15 per cent, while simplifying the administrative process has cut costs by more than 80 per cent. Meanwhile, according to the Moscow government, the weight of pupils’ school bags has halved.

03 United States

Following introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the number of people relying on Medicaid for essential healthcare services rose to one in five US citizens.

Clearly, this has increased the pressure on the system, prompting a transformation programme focused on some of the key challenges, including behavioural health, women and infant care, so-called substance use disorder and avoidable emergency department visits.

Involving digital health firm Avia and 17 health systems running 280 hospitals, the aim is to meet their communities’ needs more effectively by adopting and sharing new digital solutions and innovative care models. Much of the work is preventative, simultaneously improving patient outcomes and cutting long-term costs.

“We’ve seen exciting and positive momentum with digitally enabled solutions that engage our physicians, caregivers, patients and consumers,” says Dr Rod Hochman, Providence St Joseph Health president and chief executive.

A core team will be created at each health organisation, sharing best practice; for example, Geisinger Health System’s Fresh Food Farmacy, which allows doctors to prescribe fresh fruit and vegetables to patients who have diabetes and who are deemed “food insecure”. Other likely future projects include improving access to mental health services and dialysis treatment.

04 Moray

Award-winning efforts by Moray Council in Scotland to become a paperless organisation have helped slash annual costs by millions.

By dramatically cutting the use of paper files and documents, the council has improved efficiency, reduced the amount of storage space required and made it possible to search files in a fraction of the time.

The system enables staff to create, share, file and store all documents electronically using Microsoft SharePoint, which is integrated with the council’s existing applications.

One of the key benefits, says the council, is the improved management of documents after they are no longer in use and become records, which can then be securely managed and easily accessed by staff. The length of time they need to be retained is automated, so no manual tracking, shredding or deleting is required.

The project was recently rated as the best digital document management system at the Public Sector Paperless Awards and the council says it has helped to reduce its running costs by £3 million a year.

“Moving to paperless working helps reduce cost, make systems more efficient and is far better for the environment,” says council leader Graham Leadbitter.

05 Estonia

In Estonia, virtually all government services are delivered digitally, with the exceptions of marriage, divorce and property purchases.

All Estonians are given an ID code at birth, with an ID card using 2048-bit public key encryption functioning as a legal travel document within the European Union, a national health insurance card, banking ID, for digital signatures and more.

The main principle of Estonia’s e-government is that citizens should have to provide information only once. Thus, completing a tax return takes just three minutes, as the government already has most of the information required.

Indeed, it’s now working towards full automation, where information on salaries is automatically gathered without human intervention from the Statistics Office, Tax and Customs Board and Estonian banks.

Almost all health data and prescriptions are digitised, offering opportunities for personalised medicine, particularly as the country is now mapping the genome of a large proportion of the population.

It’s possible to open a business in just 18 minutes and, since 2014, foreign nationals have been able to benefit. The country’s e-residency scheme allows applicants to establish and manage a company online, gaining access to the EU market.