Council staff are recognised for their industry-leading work in emerging technology

Tech-savvy employees at Swindon Borough Council achieved a podium finish in a prestigious national award after implementing innovative technology to improve the Council’s response to fly-tipping.

Published: Friday, 16th October 2020

council staff responding to fly-tipping

Collaborating with colleagues across the local authority, the Emerging Technologies Team provides solutions to everyday challenges by developing and implementing new technology.

Working with the Council’s StreetSmart service, the team identified opportunities to trial new technologies aimed at improving the response to the 300 reports of fly-tipped rubbish received every month.

In recognition of their impressive work, the fly-tipping project was voted by the public as one of the top three finalists for the ‘Artificial Intelligence Innovation of the Year’ award at the 2020 Digital Leaders Awards, after being shortlisted by a panel of expert judges.

This national award pitched the Council against large-scale private sector competitors such as Tesco. The Council was the only government organisation to reach the finals.

The award recognised the team’s introduction of image recognition and machine-learning to identify the type, quantity, estimated dimensions and volume of fly-tipped items from a single photo.

Other technology developed by the team utilises location information to help the StreetSmart team accurately and efficiently locate fly-tipped rubbish, track fly-tipping hotspots and monitor trends.

The introduction of these changes has allowed the StreetSmart team to easily view, plan and prioritise cases, resulting in more efficient collections and a reduction in fuel and emissions. Since the introduction of the new technology, the average time to resolve cases has seen an 83 per cent increase in efficiency, despite an increase in reported cases.

Alongside the technological development, the Emerging Technologies team has worked closely with residents to improve the online fly-tipping reporting process, which now has a 98 per cent positive ‘good to great’ rating from residents.

The team will continue to measure and monitor the impact of the work, allowing the Council to make decisions on the suitability of the technology to improve other services, such as graffiti and fallen trees.

The fly-tipping project is one of a number being trialled and developed by The Emerging Technologies Team using new technologies to drive forward positive change.

Other examples include the introduction of Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technology for processing free school meal applications. RPA within a computer completes repetitive tasks with clear rules, working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and with zero mistakes. During the height of COVID-19 a trial of RPA achieved a 98 per cent increase in efficiency, even with a significant increase in applications across the region.

Councillor Robert Jandy, Swindon Borough’s Cabinet Member for Organisational Excellence, said: “The Emerging Technologies team’s achievement in being selected as one of the top three finalists for The Artificial Innovation of the Year award is a testament to the importance and quality of their work. As the only government organisation to reach the final round of this award, the Council is at the forefront of understanding, shaping and developing new technology to meet complex business needs.

“With the challenges our services have been facing this year, ground-breaking work like this has never been more important. Looking to the future, I am excited to see how else similar technology can be implemented across other council services to help us achieve our aspiration of becoming a modern, efficient and effective organisation.”

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