Statement of Commitment and Ambition 4
The Five Core Themes 5
Digital Places 6 – 7
Digital Communities 8 – 9
Digital Wellbeing 10 – 11
Digital Organisation 12 – 13
Digital Growth 14 – 15
Delivering a Digital Northumberland 16
4 Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council is committed
to make the most of digital opportunities in the
way we design and deliver our services, the
way we support our communities and the way
we encourage our economy to flourish. We
want to ensure that everyone who wants to
can benefit from the diversity of digital
products and services.
Our aim is to build on existing assets to create
a robust digital infrastructure in Northumberland.
This foundation will not only bring communities
together, but our ambition is to use digital
platforms to create a climate of investment
This Digital Strategy will serve communities
and businesses across a diverse county.
Northumberland is the largest unitary authority
by geographic coverage with a land area of
1,960 square miles and is also the most sparsely
populated in England with only 63 people per
square kilometre. Home to around 316,000
people, Northumberland remains largely rural,
with no settlements being home to more than
Nearly half the county’s population is
concentrated in the industrial and urban South-
East Northumberland. With the exception of
Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the Scottish border,
most of the other principal settlements lie in an
expanding commuter zone to the North and East
of the Newcastle conurbation whilst also serving
large rural areas. As such, Northumberland’s
size and diversity presents significant challenges
but also opportunities for delivering growth
through digital services and infrastructure.
This strategy recognises the importance of
‘digital’ to Northumberland, addressing the
needs of a secure and robust infrastructure,
enabling the delivery of cheaper and better
digital services, and supporting improvements
in digital skills.
It describes the opportunities which digital
infrastructure can provide in connecting our
communities, enhancing businesses and
supporting economic growth.
Deputy Leader of the Council
The Five Core
Leading the way for digital
transformation, Digital Northumberland
highlights five core themes, which
collectively will enable the digital growth
and prosperity of Northumberland.
providing the vital infrastructure
to enable people to get online
providing support to
enable independent living
developing higher quality, more
efficient, responsive, and joined
up online services designed
around the customer.
providing support to individuals
to increase digital skills
providing digital business
support to grow our economy
6 Northumberland County Council
Creating a robust digital infrastructure in
Northumberland is the foundation of a physically
connected county and is essential to deliver
our digital ambitions. This foundation will not
only bring communities together, but can also
rebalance Northumberland’s economy and
create a climate of investment and growth.
“Since 2013 iNorthumberland has been rolling
out basic, superfast and ultrafast broadband
throughout the County. By December 2015
our delivery partner, BT will have connected
over 50,000 premises. During this time the
engagement team have been working closely
with communities and businesses, and we are
now seeing some of the highest fibre take up
rates in the UK. The team are continuing to
lobby to deliver fibre services to some of the
most rural places in England.”
Our aim is to be the best connected rural
county in the UK founded on a robust digital
infrastructure of appropriate fibre, wireless
and satellite products.
To achieve this, we will enable a robust mobile
network to all parts of the county, deliver fibre
broadband to 95% of premises, and achieve
improved connectivity for the remaining 5%.
The county still suffers from a number of “not
-spots” whereby there is either no mobile phone
service or one that is limited to voice use only.
To this end, we will work with Broadband
Delivery UK (BDUK) to deliver 100% mobile
coverage for voice by December 2016. We
incentivise commercial telecommunication
operators to invest in Northumberland, by
removing the barriers necessary to secure
a significant step change in 3G and 4G
data coverage in Northumberland.
Via an investment programme of almost
£20million, Northumberland County Council’s
iNorthumberland programme will provide, in
partnership with British Telecom plc, superfast
broadband connectivity to 90% of the county’s
homes and businesses by 2015.
The majority of these links will be facilitated by
laying fibre to a network of cabinets (FTTC).
This will deliver speeds of up to 24 megabits per
second (mbps) to download. Some properties
will receive fibre direct to the premise (FTTP),
which can provide speeds of up to 330mbps
download and 30mbps upload.
In addition, we shall ensure that all new
developments are provided with superfast
broadband services as an integral part of
the provision of core utilities.
Connectivity to the Final 10%
By 2017, the intention is to increase fibre
broadband coverage in the county to 95%
of premises. This target acknowledges the
geography of Northumberland and the
limitations of current technology. Nonetheless,
wherever superfast broadband is not provided,
we guarantee a minimum service delivery of
5mbps to every property in Northumberland.
In order to meet this guarantee, we will
• Roll out fibre broadband with British Telecom
plc and basic broadband satellite solutions
• Develop a comprehensive network of street
level Wi-Fi particularly focused on our town
centres and major tourist attractions
• Incentivise and attract alternative network
operators into the county, including through
the current iNorthumberland loan scheme
• Actively engage with network suppliers and
universities to understand how advances in
technology can extend superfast coverage
and increase speeds
Andy works from home and relies upon
accessing the internet for meetings, said:
“If superfast broadband hadn’t come our
way we may have not been able to live here,
which would have been disappointing as
we love living here, close by to family and
the beach - superfast broadband really is
changing our life”.
8 Northumberland County Council
Across the county, approximately 84% of people
are active online. This means that over 220,000
people of working age (16+) potentially have
good digital skills and are capable of engaging
meaningfully in a digital society. However, there
are potentially 41,000 people in the jobs market
who lack basic online skills and in some cases,
have never been online.
Digital Champions get residents online
Around Northumberland there are thousands of
people who are digitally isolated because they
don’t know how to use their computers and
the internet. Thanks to the Libraries team and a
growing network of Digital Champion volunteers,
residents who don’t have access to the internet,
or the skills they need to make the most of it, can
now get free help at their local library to open up
the wonders of the web. Anyone who wants to
find out more about becoming a digital champion
or who feels they could benefit from the help
of a champion should contact Nicola Tervit by
emailing Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org .
Our aim is to support all members of our
community to go online by providing low cost
broadband access and developing the digital
skills of individuals.
To achieve this, we will work to make
affordable broadband available to residents,
utilise public access points to their maximum
potential, and develop comprehensive digital
skills education programmes.
We are dedicated to finding ways of making
affordable broadband options available to
This will include working with social housing
providers, and private landlords to address ways
of providing low cost connectivity as part
of tenancy contracts.
Public Access Points
There are currently 300 public access points
throughout the county. We will continue to
expand this network in collaboration with
other community-based service providers.
This network will be promoted to the public
through a public access location finder
service on our website.
Digital Skills & Support Programmes
We also recognise that having the confidence
to go online can be a significant barrier to
digital activity, as can a lack of understanding
as to the potential benefits and applications
of digital skills.
We will seek to break these barriers down by:
• co-ordinating the provision of a digital
champion support network in Northumberland,
working with a wide range of partners to
ensure sufficient support is available for
individuals, and helping signpost individuals
to appropriate locations for support
• creating an accreditation scheme for
community-based ‘Digital Champions’ who
are providing one to one support
• continuing to offer digital skills programmes
in our libraries and more formal training
through our adult education service
• delivering a model for digital support within
our own organisation, to our workforce and
• working with schools, colleges and other
learning providers to enable young people
to share and transfer their digital skills to
other members of the community, whilst also
developing their own digital skills further to
match those demanded by employers
• exploring the feasibility of creating a digital
academy in Northumberland, which will help
to grow and retain digital skills and talent
in the county
In Northumberland we are proud that a number of local organisations have pioneered the
delivery of digital inclusion activity within our communities. Northumberland Community
Development Network and Blyth Resource and Initiative Centre are just two organisations who
have secured external funding to deliver digital training and support to those who need it most.
It is our ambition to continue to support our partners to deliver activity which meets the evolving
needs of our communities.
10 Northumberland County Council
There are considerable social gains to be made
from increasing the number of people online.
Promoting social engagement at all stages of
people’s lives is fundamental to their wellbeing.
So, for example, internet access can offer a
lifeline from social isolation for older people who
go longer than a week without seeing a friend,
neighbour or family member. By embracing
digital technology we can often reduce
exclusion, isolation and loneliness.
Digital Inclusion – Social Housing Pilot
The Digital Inclusion pilot gave 143 social
housing tenants a PC and free broadband
for 6 months, getting them online for the
first time. The Pilot’s partnership, between
Northumberland County Council, social housing
providers Bernicia, Four Housing, Homes for
Northumberland and Isos, and Northumbria
Health, was an unequivocal success, working
together to tackle problems and provide support,
despite technical difficulties and challenging
Results exceeded expectations. Participants
reported financial, social and educational gains:
IT skills improved; 65% saved money, and felt
more connected with family, old friends and
community. People looking for work were the
heaviest users; some got jobs via the internet,
and all improved their job search skills.
“He wouldn’t have got the job if we hadn’t
had the internet. It’s been fantastic. I’d tell
anyone to give it a go.”
Lone parent, family all live abroad
“It’s been wonderful, my family have been able
to see my daughter for the first time and we’ve
talked every day. I’ve used Facebook and told
them to go on Skype and we’ve talked all the
time – and it’s saved me so much money.”Elderly couple, both have mobility
“It’s been a godsend, we have our
independence back. I didn’t think I’d ever
speak to or see some of these people again.”
Our aim is to maximise the use of digital
technology as part of a wider support
package to promote the health and wellbeing
of our communities and families.
To achieve this, we will harness digital
technology to promote safe digital
participation, develop products that enable
independent living, and enable the expansion
of tele-health where appropriate.
Increasingly we live and operate in a digital
world. This world has steadily become integrated
with the home, classroom, and workplace;
and is now commonplace. This regular use of
technology whilst bringing many benefits also
carries potential risks. These are wide-ranging
– from viewing inappropriate content to cyber-
bullying. We need to ensure all users are using
this technology in a safe environment.
In addition, digital technology has the ability
to connect people and provide access to
information and guidance. Our aim is to
maximise this power to support older and
vulnerable people and keep them part of day to
day community life. This will include using digital
means of engagement to better understand their
individual needs and thereby better tailor our
responses to meeting those needs.
Recent research undertaken by the Digital
Institute at Newcastle University has shown
us that digital technology can be harnessed
to maximise people’s capacity to stay or
become more independent.
Our aim is to be an exemplar county for
delivering a range of innovative products which
maximise the participation of people with
long-term conditions or disabilities.
The term ‘tele-health’ encompasses all the
different ways in which technology can be
harnessed in the delivery of preventative
and curative aspects of health care.
We will work closely with Northumbria Healthcare
to explore which options might be of benefit to
residents across the county.
12 Northumberland County Council
The Council aspires to operate on a ‘digital
by choice’ basis. This means delivering digital
services that are so straightforward and
convenient that all those who can use them will
choose to do so, whilst those who can’t are not
excluded. However, to achieve this, we need to
fundamentally review our own organisational
practices and service delivery models.
“Connecting, developing and engaging a
disparate workforce across Northumberland
through the development of a virtual, integrated
and networked learning environment.
Northumberland’s award winning Learning
Together platform has created positive channel
shift with over 5,000 learners regularly accessing
online learning, self-managing course bookings
and collaborating in a digital community.”
Our aim is to transform working practices and
become a truly digital organisation, able to
respond to emerging needs and expectations
of our customers, partners and neighbours.
To achieve this, we will maximise channel
shift to digital transactions, improve civic
engagement via digital methods, and
promote agile working.
Service Channel Shift
The way people connect with local government
is changing. Digital services can harness the
power and convenience of the web to make
interactions quicker, simpler and more secure
– saving millions and producing a better user
To facilitate this, we will progressively make it
easier for residents, customers and clients to
access Council services online 24/7 at a time
convenient to them. We will enable customers
to request services, report issues and undertake
transactions online, on any type of device.
By 2018, we anticipate that around 80% of
interactions with the Council will be handled
digitally with the residual being done via
telephone or face to face.
Single View of the Customer
Key to this digital shift is establishing a “single
view of the customer”. Often referred to as “the
Amazon mentality”; allowing a range of services
to be available to the customer through an
online, secure and personal account.
We will review the information and intelligence
we hold and look to utilise it in the most effective
ways in a secure manner. This will enable us to
assist in our service planning, ensuring that we
are in a strong position to meet future customer
Digital Civic Engagement
Digital technology harnesses the power to
undertake meaningful two-way consultation
and engagement with the community.
The Council will develop a new transactional and
interactive website, acknowledging it is our ‘shop
front’ to the customer, and where engagement
The use of social media (including Facebook
and Twitter) is particularly powerful in
communicating service delivery information and
gathering the views of residents on live issues.
The Council will continue to expand the use
of these engagement tools.
New Ways of Working
We will use digital practices to mobilise our
workforce and support agile working. This will
include supporting the use of smart devices, hot-
desking and teleconferencing facilities. This can
subsequently assist in rationalising our facilities
and maintenance costs, reducing the need to
travel across the county, and offering improved
work-life balance opportunities for staff.
“Transforming service delivery through the
corporate street, land and property gazetteer has
awarded the team many accolades. Recently
the team improved the efficiency of the elections
process – saving the Council £39k per annum.
The gazetteer enables effective management of
information, bringing data together and attaching
it to individual premises. At the click of a button
customers can add their postcode to a digital
map on our website and see a variety of services
available to them at their address. Our ambition
is to grow our single view of the customer”
14 Northumberland County Council
The business base of Northumberland is
dominated by small businesses with over 80%
employing less than five staff, and less than 1%
employing more than 250. Many of these firms
are also operating in traditional, land-based
sectors. It is therefore not surprising that the
level of digital take up by the county’s network of
businesses is among the lowest in the country.
Arch Digital Business Support
“Leading a pioneering Digital Business Support
Programme, Arch Digital are at the forefront of
modernising the delivery of business support.
The online portal provides a wealth of training,
guidance and advice to SMEs 24/7, enabling
them to grow and prosper by maximising the
opportunities of fibre broadband.”
Our aim is to create a thriving digital economy
where businesses can access the digital
infrastructure they need and are supported to
maximise the opportunities available to them.
To achieve this, we will increase levels of
broadband take up, deliver comprehensive
digital business support, and improve
connectivity in business parks and hubs.
Business Take Up
Driving the take up of superfast broadband is
widely acknowledged as a vital activity to drive
economic growth and business competitiveness.
It can improve access to markets, improve
productivity, encourage innovation, and facilitate
new business start-ups.
To this end, we will use every opportunity to
promote the use of broadband to existing and
emerging businesses. This will include running
regular grass roots road-shows to illustrate
the benefit of digital processes to businesses
regardless of their scale or sector-base.
Tailored Business Support
With the support of a significant European
funding programme, Arch Digital will offer a
unique package of digital business support to
individual enterprises. This will include financial
subsidies to support the take up of superfast
broadband and access to online business
support tools, offering both general utilisation
support and specialist sector-based advice.
Ultrafast Business Parks and Hubs
The first phase of fibre broadband roll-out has
ensured that the Enterprise Zones sites in the
south east of the county, and the Rural Growth
Network hubs in the north and the west have
been upgraded first, with improved speeds being
available since early 2014.
The second phase of fibre broadband roll out
will commence in autumn 2015 and will prioritise
the remaining business parks and key business
sites. We will steer deployment to connect
businesses to the infrastructure they need to
enable their business to grow.
To complement this widespread roll out of
superfast broadband (24mbps), we also aim to
provide Ultrafast Broadband services (330mbps)
to businesses. This will equate to the digital
infrastructure normally only found in cities and
set us apart from our rural counterparts.
From 1st April 2015 the Superconnected Cities
voucher scheme will operate in Northumberland,
providing connectivity grants of up to £3,000
for SMEs, to enable them to double their
connectivity speeds and secure speeds
of at least 30 mbps.
Forge Studios Allendale
Amanda Galbraith, founder and Managing
Director at the Forge, explains how she feels
the businesses at the Forge will benefit.“We
aim to not only house small businesses, but
support them in any way that we can. While
our broadband has never been terribly slow
at 6mbps, we have several businesses relying
on the connection for a variety of reasons that
require a fast connection. When we found out
fibre broadband was available in Allendale, we
took the opportunity to upgrade immediately
and after an engineer visit, we receive a
connection upwards of 70mbps – over ten
times faster! Now our superfast broadband is
just another reason that people want to work
in one of our studios.”
16 Northumberland County Council
The development of the Digital Northumberland
strategy has included detailed and extensive
stakeholder engagement. This process identified
a long list of strategic and delivery actions.
The next stage is to revisit these actions
and focus on where we can make a
From this the Digital Northumberland Delivery
Plan will be created, which will demonstrate how
our key actions will be delivered. This Delivery
Plan will be set and reviewed on an annual basis,
in recognition that the digital market progresses
at a pace which would mean any longer term
plan would be meaningless.
Delivery of Digital Northumberland will be led
by Northumberland County Council, working in
partnership with a wide range of Public, Private
and Third Sector Organisations.