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Blog: The future's bright – the future's digital

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For a day at least, Shrewsbury was shining at the centre of the digital landscape writes local government press officer and blogger Dan Slee.

More than 200 people packed into Theatre Severn for the Digital Futures 2012 conference, which drew people from across the country including from the Cabinet Office in Whitehall and the Prime Minister's own staff.

But what was the point of it all? And why Shropshire?

Isn't the internet just kids in bedrooms? Well, the reason was clear enough.

It's looking at ways to make people's lives easier using the internet.

It's in Shropshire because talented people at Shropshire Council are attracting some nationwide attention.

That's things like posting alerts on Twitter when the fleet of gritters go out no matter how late.

Then there's the blog from the Family Information Service that gives parents a helping hand, for example.

All good stuff.

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Here's some facts. Did you know it costs the council 15p every time someone wants to find out some information on its website?

Like when the fitness suite at Teme Cleobury is open on a Saturday, for example. (It's 7.30am, by the way. I looked it up on the council website.)

Do that over the phone and the cost to the council in manpower is £2.83 and balloons to £8.62 if you popped in and did it face-to-face, according to the Society of Information Technology Managers.

Saving money is just one reason why the web is so attractive to local government. The other is that so many people are on it.

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More than 52 million people across the country have used the web in one form or another.

Not only that but around 70 per cent of the country are connected to the internet and around 30 million people are registered on Facebook in the UK.

So, if your local council can do more things for you online then so many people win. But because so many of these channels are new, it's vital that people across government get together to share ideas that work.

So what sort of ways could this help Shropshire people?

Some big ideas and some little tricks. Like better ways to add pictures of what the council is up to. Or maybe it's the application called Casserole that helps people to cook dinners for neighbours who need them.

Or perhaps it's the council listening better to what people think so it can make better decisions about things.

At a time of cuts, events like this are a lifeline. Staged with the help of sponsorship and with people bringing their own packed lunch it's a way to find out, share and be inspired without breaking the bank.

Many came in their own time because they're passionate about what they do. That's a side of local government that people often just don't see.

It's why I'm a hugely proud to work in it.

Dan Slee is a local government press officer and blogger. To read more go to www.danslee.wordpress.com

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