Against the backdrop of technological progress and a dynamic and challenging socio-economic context, policy-makers and professionals have been increasingly acknowledging the potential of technology in collecting, exchanging, analysing and storing data, which is key to plan and implement effective services.
A digital agenda for Europe – Integrating technology into social services
The benefits of technology have been recognised at different policy levels, not least by the European Commission’s work on the Digital Single Market and its impact on social services. Jasmin Battista (DG CONNECT, European Commission) highlighted the importance of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and social innovation in facilitating a community-based approach in social services. Among the concrete European frameworks, Battista presented an example from the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing - Connect for Health, a pilot for testing e-health services in the Nordic countries, which promotes a wider use of open fiber -to-home networks to make public services more accessible in rural areas.
Local examples of social services transformation through ICT
At the local level, a variety of examples for the application of digital technologies in social services were featured at the conference. In all of these examples, partnerships played a crucial role in designing and implementing the technical infrastructure.
Esri presented its Geographic Information System (GIS), which enables policy makers and practitioners to use data on service infrastructures or users in a given area. In Lisbon, the welfare organisation Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa (LINK) applies these maps to change their area-based interventions, for example by mapping day care centres and isolated older people.
Breeze-e, a public-private consortium in the UK, created a transactional e-marketplace, which offers an easy way to access a range of services. For local authorities, this offers advantages like long-term operational savings or built-in mechanisms related to quality, performance, and accreditation of services.
DIONA shared insight into their tablet-based mobility solutions for social workers, which allow practitioners to map and reach users and plan their case load more efficiently, whilst staying connected with their offices and ensuring the safety of sensitive information.
Digital tools can enable policy makers and practitioners in social services to respond to the complex needs of different societal groups in a timely manner and improved quality.
To convert their potential into a working reality, public and private sector resources can be combined through partnerships of different types. Private stakeholders can bring about the desired know-how and capacities to support the public sector in developing and implementing technical infrastructures.