At Datacom we work with 117 councils across Australia, so we hear from a broad cross-section of those working in local government about their most pressing issues, and what they need to better serve their communities. As we move into the new year, here’s my take on what local government organisations need to focus on in 2024. 

1. Doing more with less

A headline issue facing most local government organisations is pressure on resources and funding. A desire or directive to do more with less is something I hear in almost every conversation with councils. 

There are obviously many ways this can be addressed, but certainly digital systems play a key role in boosting staff productivity and freeing up people to focus on more meaningful interactions with the communities that councils serve. 

Datascape is one solution that provides a single-source of truth with up-to-date information, enabling councils to have more valuable, personalised interactions with their customers.

2. Serving the community digitally 

While there’s been a gradual transition away from citizens interacting with their councils over the front counter or the phone towards digital channels, this is now accelerating.  

A recent survey of 2,000 homeowners*, commissioned by Datacom to better understand how connected Australians feel to their local government, found that Gen Z and Millennials led the way in calling for digital-first government channels that facilitate two-way conversations (66% and 68% respectively). And an overwhelming three-quarters of each of these groups said they’d use an app for this if available.   

Datacom’s Antenno app, for example, allows residents to select locations of specific interest to them, so they only receive information related to their relevant locations, helping them do everything from put out the right bin on the right day to negotiating road closures.

Profile photo of Peter Nelson standing in front of a pink and purple background
Datacom's Director of Local Government, Peter Nelson, says harnessing digital channels and services will be key in helping councils better serve their communities in 2024.

3. Empowering field staff 

Whether they’re issuing parking infringements, dealing with roaming dogs or inspecting buildings, many council staff work out in the field – and there's a massive opportunity for smart ways to empower these workers. 

In 2024 Datacom is releasing a sophisticated, new generation of its mobile field worker solution, and early feedback we're getting from beta customers is that they're really excited about the power of the solution and what it will enable them to do. 

4. Cybersecurity

Just like board members in the private sector, elected officials are hyper-aware of growing cybersecurity threats, and the risks associated with information breaches. Despite the huge amounts being invested in this area, however, the unfortunate fact is no individual or organisation is ever 100% safe; it’s about minimising your risks.  

Ironically, the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain is always the human one. So providing robust training for staff to understand, for example, what a phishing attack looks like, and how to quarantine and report it, is essential. 

The shift to Software as a Service applications is also saving councils time and cost, as they outsource much of the heavy lifting around cybersecurity to software providers. Quality providers follow international standards, have certifications like ISO27001 and even carry out penetration testing – employing a third party to hunt out vulnerabilities in systems to ensure they’re secure.

5. Staffing 

Rural and city councils alike face challenges finding the talent required to manage their systems, particularly when undertaking change projects. It’s not always an easy fix, but we are seeing councils tap external providers who can bring in skilled people to fill some key gaps during project timeframes.  

Another exciting development is councils collaborating to design and run projects, and sharing their knowledge and resources. In theory, councils don’t compete so it should be relatively easy to encourage collaboration; in practice it requires careful planning, good governance and goodwill to make it happen. However, we've seen examples where this has been highly successful, with councils able to get far better outcomes than if they’d gone it alone. 

6. Artificial Intelligence 

The emergence of ChatGTP catapulted AI into everyday conversation in 2023, and it will increasingly dominate discourse in 2024.   

AI’s ability to serve up the right information at the right time to both citizens and council staff has huge potential. We can see exciting ways for AI to bring together relevant information from councils’ large, complex ERP systems as well as relevant external sources, for example, to help customer service staff respond quickly, accurately and in plain-English to enquiries and service requests.   

Ultimately that means people in these roles can focus on providing richer support for constituents and dealing with more complex inquiries.  

*Antenna, an independent consumer research agency on behalf of Datacom, conducted an online AntennaPoll survey of n=2000 Australian ratepayers, evenly split n=400 across the five mainland states. The survey was conducted from 9–15 June 2023. The survey data collection was national, and respondents were sourced using an accredited online research access panel.

Data was weighted for representation against the 2021 Australian census. 

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