LGMA Awarded Public Service Innovation Funding

A new LGMA project to apply robotics to Core reporting is among 34 diverse projects that have successfully secured funding from this year’s call under the Public Service Innovation Fund. A number of local authority projects have also been awarded funding.

The Innovation Fund is an initiative of the Our Public Service 2020 reform strategy for development and innovation in the Public Service. Now in its second year, the fund is a competition designed to support innovation from public service bodies to promote collaboration and new and better approaches to service delivery.

This year’s call saw an increase of 168 per cent in applications for funding over the 2019 pilot. A total of 364 project proposals were received from organisations in all sectors of the Public Service.

Projects will be realised in 2020 with funding available of between €10,000 and €50,000 per project.

Announcing the results, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, said, “This year we have seen how, now more than ever, there is a need for our Public Service to be agile, innovative and responsive to the myriad of challenges facing the country. Cross-public service collaboration is outlined in the Programme for Government as a priority and this collaboration between our public service organisations, business and research communities is essential to drive the development of new ways of working and designing and delivering better services for the public.

“The projects receiving funding this year clearly demonstrate the willingness of public servants to work together to find better solutions. It is imperative that we create value in every public project embarked on, whether in healthcare, our emergency services, digital delivery of public services or education for our young people.”

About the LGMA and local authority projects

Applying Robotics to Core Exception Reporting
Local Government Management Agency
Funding: €15,000

At present in the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), clocking and attendance details for all personnel within the organisation are recorded and managed on the ‘Core’ time and attendance system. The same system is used in all local authorities in the country. Currently, the reporting of all Core clocking exceptions is managed manually for the 100 staff within the LGMA. This process takes on average 15 hours per month of valuable administration resources to execute and manage.

By applying Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology, it is proposed to develop a monitoring and execution process aligned with Core that will automatically identify and escalate exceptions to the appropriate management level within the organisation, thus allowing the administration resources to add value to the organisation elsewhere. Once developed and validated, this solution could be deployed across the entire Local Government sector of over 40,000 staff.

3D Virtual Reality Model to Enhance Citizen Engagement
Fingal County Council | Smart Dublin
Funding: €20,000

Balbriggan is now the youngest and one of the most ethnically diverse towns in Ireland. Its rapid growth has meant amenities have not kept pace with population growth; the local economy and main street have struggled; and perception of the place is poor. Engaging with the people of the town as part of its rejuvenation is a key element in the strategic plan. The proposal is to create a 3D Virtual Reality (VR) Model to be used in Our Balbriggan Hub, to connect with residents, public services and business in a meaningful way. The hub, situated in the centre of the town will be the engine room for the plan and is where the Our Balbriggan team will be based. Having VR technology will enable the team to engage further with the citizens and help them to visualise how their town will be developed.

Balbriggan is set for a major rejuvenation plan that will include new amenities such as free Wi-Fi in the town centre, a skate park and heritage trail, as well as a rejuvenated harbour and Greenway. The objective is to develop an immersive 3D Virtual Reality model of the public realm rejuvenation projects that are planned over the next five years. And in doing so keeping citizens of Balbriggan engaged in the development process.

Becoming a Smart City: Waterford City Testbed for IoT Sensors
Waterford City and County Council | Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)
Funding: €15,000

A member of the All Ireland Smart Cities Forum, the Waterford City and County Council (WCCC) team is finalising a ‘Smart Waterford’ strategy and one of the early objectives will be to define what Smart Waterford could be.

The key to being ‘smart’ is having ready access to information and using that information to improve citizen services and way of life; insights from data should also help make city operations as efficient and effective as possible. While there are a number of standalone projects underway (smart bins, city bike scheme) a consolidated approach to managing the urban data assets, including data from new IoT sensors, is needed.

The proposal to create Smart City testbed areas within Waterford City. This would enable the use of data analytics and business intelligence in support of high quality sustainable placemaking. The project involves collaboration between WCCC and partners at Waterford Institute of Technology: RIKON, TSSG and the Lean Enterprise Excellence Forum.

Building a Smart City Control Room and IoT Sensor Testbed for Traffic Congestion
Fingal County Council | ESB Innovation
Funding: €15,000

Traffic congestion is one of the biggest challenges for Fingal County Council. Many of Fingal’s citizens travel outside the area to work, leading to congestion and long commute times. This compounds congestion and commuter issues, seriously affecting citizen quality of life and damages Ireland’s attractiveness to foreign investment. The impact extends beyond the residences and businesses as Fingal provides a key transport corridor for Ireland by virtue of Dublin Airport, the M1 and M50.

The funding will go towards developing intelligent traffic solutions and trialing IoT sensors in the Dublin 15 pilot area, in partnership with ESB Innovation. This will enable Fingal County Council to use real-time data to improve traffic flows, reduce congestion and monitor traffic and environmental data.

By utilising IoT, machine learning and big data, the County Council can get a better overall picture of the urban landscape and use this data in planning and building strategic infrastructure for communities.

Creative Studio
South Dublin County Council
Funding: €21,000

The Creative Studio is a free to use digital maker space facilitating the creation of music recordings, podcasts, videos, digital stories and oral histories. At the centre of this space is a recording booth providing library patrons with access to a variety of audio and video recording equipment and software.

South Dublin Public Libraries will open a new library in Rowlagh, Clondalkin in 2020. Rowlagh is a deprived area, typified by a high level of unemployment and anti-social behaviour. The idea of introducing The Creative Studio is to engage with younger people in particular – energise them and provide upskilling in digital media, with a view to expanding their horizons on future career possibilities. It should also serve to increase library membership and ensure relevance of the library service to young people in the community. The Creative Studio will be fully open and accessible to all public bodies and departments. The project aims to be a learning platform to all and the studio will be a service of innovation that can be adopted elsewhere and serve a creative purpose to communities.

Enterprise Challenge
Dublin City Council / LEO Dublin City | TU Dublin | DCU
Funding: €12,500

Micro and Small/Medium Enterprises (MSMES) comprise the vast majority of enterprise activity in Ireland and approximately 65% of total employees. They operate in extremely competitive environments in which strategising, researching and planning is difficult. Furthermore, commissioning these as consultancy activities can be too expensive for them. Local enterprise ecosystems can be strengthened through collaboration, networking and integrated activities.

Enterprise Challenge is a joint initiative which matches micro/small-medium commercial enterprises and social enterprises in Dublin with teams of final year or Masters level university students. Students from diverse backgrounds, nationalities and cultures work in teams of 4-5 with selected enterprises to help provide insights, propose solutions and ultimately present a bespoke and tangible plan that sets out how challenges and opportunities could be addressed. The types of enterprise challenges that students work on include: innovation, design thinking, new product/service development, business development, opportunity identification and evaluation, commercialisation, and new venture creation.

Public Service Innovation Funding will be used to scale the project in 2020. Prize funds for enterprises and student teams will be created to enhance the pitch competition and initiative. Funding will also be used to develop programme and marketing material in order to strengthen the initiative for further regional scaling.

National Building Open Data Portal
National Building Control Office | Dublin Housing Observatory | AIRO
Funding: €40,000

The National Building Control Office (NBCO) provides a national shared service by managing the system for Building Control administration in the 31 Building Control Authorities (BCMS). This system is accessed and used in over 20 countries daily. In the current political climate and in the midst of a housing crisis, access to data around housing and more specifically house building activity and progress is in constant demand. The NBCO is uniquely placed to allow Data to be an Enabler in this highly complex area. Many stakeholders (public, CSO, housing agencies, DHPLG, DHO, CIC, RIAI, media, banks, real estate agencies, stockbrokers, investment agencies etc.) request access to the information contained in the BCMS daily, therefore allowing data sharing, optimisation and transparency is critical.

A joined-up and integrated approach is required for the solution and the NBCO recognise the need to provide the same information to people at the same time. The funding will go towards the development of an Open Data Portal to access building commencement and completion data. The potential for visualisation of such a rich dataset has been demonstrated by collaborative work already carried out between NBCO, Dublin Housing Observatory (DCC) and AIRO (All Ireland Housing Observatory, Maynooth University).

Virtual Reality 360-Degree Tour and House Inspection App for Local Authority Houses
Monaghan County Council
Funding: €29,900

Monaghan County Council (MCC) proposes the development of a virtual reality 360-degree tour and house inspection app for housing stock. The solution will have two purposes:

1. Allow housing applicants to experience an immersive tour of a house before making a decision to accept an offer of a tenancy;
2. Provide an easy to use inspection tool for local authority staff to assist in housing inspections and maintenance.

The solution will allow the housing applicant to experience a virtual tour of the house either in the local authority offices or at their own convenience at a time and place that suits them. This frees up local authority staff for other work. Housing inspections are currently very time-consuming for local authority staff. MCC engineers take many 2D pictures of each room in the house. They also spend a lot of time manually recording issues in the house on paper-based forms. This information is then manually updated to the documentation management system. The proposed solution will use voice recording and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to log specific categories of damage for repair e.g. electrical, plumbing. Funding will be used to develop a Build to Share application and for project materials.

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