Exploring Wi-Fi print solutions to reduce silo investigations, enable better purchasing decisions and open up collaborative purchasing efficiencies between authorities.
This Discovery Project looks to explore Wi-Fi print solutions so that local authorities have a greater understanding of the available solutions in the common marketplace and can make better informed purchasing or development decisions on the best solution to meet their demand, budget, audience and environment.
[SEE LOCAL DIGITAL FUND APPENDICES DOCUMENT FOR FOOTNOTES]. Please note: we have been unable to attach this document and are seeking further advice from LDF.
A driver behind looking at Wi-Fi print solutions stems from user demand identified by local library services. Libraries are open and free gateways for citizens and, as a result, have high visibility of citizens’ demands and working practices.
Services offering adult and community study programmes, apprenticeships and back to work learning have also recorded high demand for Wi-Fi printing to support courses and study within library spaces. Learners regularly request facilities to print application forms or letters, course work and reference material.
ADigital Leadership Skills report, which looked at digital trends identified as being relevant to the operation of public libraries over the next 5 – 10 years, identified that citizens are increasingly accessing the internet and using internet enabled devices which aligns with demand trends.
Potential users may also include local authority staff who would benefit from Wi-Fi print technology to support agile working and a more flexible way to print.
Initial investigations into Wi-Fi print solutions within local authorities across the UK showed that a significant number have been looking at this over the last few years. Some authorities have already implemented a form of Wi-Fi printing, but not achieved an ideal solution, and others had abandoned the idea altogether due to a number of reasons including: cost and resources required to identify an ideal solution; inability to find a solution that suited their needs or having been presented with a solution tied to additional suppliers, for components such as print release and/or other hardware, which made the resulting solution undesirable.
Where authorities currently have a Wi-Fi print solution, this generally requires staff intervention, so they too would benefit from increased knowledge about components such as cloud pay / self-serve print release, should their future needs change.
Limited resources and budgets for research have contributed towards a stagnation in the development of Wi-Fi print technologies across authorities.
The Local Government Digital Economy Bill identified the importance of access to fast and reliable digital connectivity as “a major driver behind growth, jobs and the emerging creative industries” acknowledging the economic and social value of supporting the development of Wi-Fi technologies.
In 2019 84% of adults had used the internet “on the go” with the most popular mobile device being a smartphone (79%). Increasingly, citizens are using their own devices in place of public computers for most of their Internet needs, and want to be able to do everything on their mobile device that they can on static computer, including printing.
Currently citizens with mobile devices wanting to use library print services may be required to complete convoluted joining and booking procedures that takes up staff and user time, and requires the use of public computer resources.
Public Wi-Fi print would enable libraries to work more flexibly for the benefit of citizens. We foresee the opportunity for cost savings with libraries being able to decrease their fixed PC estate and utilising more space to support flexible agile working.
All authorities will be involved in defining and delivering the research needed.
Customer and staff (end user) will be consulted to establish requirements and usage trends will be researched and recorded by authority staff, with each authority taking responsibility for devising and collating different aspects.
We will investigate end user accessibility needs and user interfaces as an essential part of the user journey. Solution research will also include ensuring that adequate user privacy and security controls can be set and ensuring that GDPR regulations are met.
Baseline research will be needed to ascertain each partner authority’s full solution requirements and to assess software/hardware/infrastructure requirements are met. These requirements include provisions for self-serve, multi-channel payment methods, network security controls, ease of use, etc.
We will also continue to identify Wi-Fi print solutions within other UK authorities to gather information, including: lessons learnt, successes and challenges that they have experienced; this report will support better purchasing efficiencies.
Technical research, including a review of suppliers and solution options, and research with authority IT departments, will be conducted by the digital partner (recruited as part of the bid). This will include a feasibility study on the scalability of the solution across local government sites in addition to libraries.
Research methods will be both quantitative and qualitative, and include questionnaires, surveys and interactions with users and staff.
The research will make use of library focus groups and staff online groups such as ‘Libraries Basecamp’ and would also utilise archival data and existing report data.
Regular meetings, physical and virtual, and online sharing tools will ensure consistency of approach.
To communicate we will deploy online productivity tools such as Office 365, Trello, Google Docs, Slack to be agreed by the bid authorities.
Initial call-outs for partners has been so positive that we expect to recruit other authorities as we continue research, with the prospect of more partner authorities for a next stage.
The introduction of Wi-Fi, and consequently the increase in use of personal devices, has seen a decrease in fixed public computer use across the bidding authorities. Whilst this may reduce the demand for fixed PC access, evidence supports that demand for print has been sustained.
Wi-Fi print would support economies through a reduction in the number of print devices required, as some current solutions require printers to be dedicated to specific connection channels.
We envisage investment into Wi-Fi print would result in the need for fewer static computers. Financial savings would offset some of the cost of introducing Wi-Fi print but there may be need for additional costs for infrastructure investment.
Reports suggest that existing coin and note payment provisions incur significant cost and overheads. A move towards online or cloud payment such as: World-pay, Gov.UK Pay, PayPal etc, could result in further cost reductions by removing the need for coin boxes/tills. This would free up staff time and remove the cost of handling cash payments.
Conclusions drawn from our research would enable local authorities the opportunity to join together to purchase preferred solutions. Whilst library services have worked together successfully to purchase library management systems and library stock, this has not generally been the case for purchasing other technologies.
Less quantifiable is the hidden cost of time spent by frontline staff enabling citizens to print. “I want to print” is a request that our library staff answer many times a day.
A simple self-serve print solution from a user’s own (familiar) device would considerably reduce both staff and user’s handling time.
Whilst this bid is being driven by the customers of local authority library services, the results will provide a valuable resource for all authority departments and public services, provide more ‘print on-the-go’ options and reduce the need to carry around sensitive documents.
The availability of Wi-Fi print services for citizens has a positive environmental benefit by preventing the need for individuals to own printers at home. Owning and maintaining a printer at home is commonly acknowledged to be both expensive and to have a large environmental impact.
Having Wi-Fi printing would enable flexibility in terms of a buildings space and what devices are used. Currently fixed PC’s are used in favour of mobile devices for sessions that often need printing e.g. work clubs, homework clubs. It would also support SME’s and business hubs such as BIP centres.
Libraries Ambition detailed a proposed future for libraries with a clear social goal of “improved digital access and literacy” for everyone.
We have used the following tools and techniques to allow the project team to work in a collaborative way and use an iterative approach –
Microsoft Teams: Video conferencing and document sharing allows the project partners, based across the country, to remain in contact easily. This quick and affordable communication channel supports regular partner feedback, business case assessment and a checkpoint for workload balance.
Online document sharing tools: We are in the process of investigating ways and tools to share digital documents across partners e.g. Sharepoint, Trello, Google Docs etc.
Project documentation Agreed project decisions, actions and timelines will be documented – i.e. through a Gantt chart, milestones, RAID log etc – and referred to during regular project partner meetings. Notes and actions will be distributed promptly to all stakeholders and highlight reports regularly feedback to management.
Regular reporting and risk escalation processes will ensure continued governance across this project.
Online communication: we will use online portals such as ’Slack’, social media and video blogs to share project updates and progress to other local authorities.
The lead partner, and the recruited project manager, will be responsible for ensuring project strategies and procedures are followed by all stakeholders which will enable full partner governance across the project.
If successful we would want to take part in the three-day “Agile for Teams course”. We want as many representatives from our bidding partners as possible to take part together as we feel this would be beneficial to our ongoing working relationship throughout the bid.
To complement the Agile training, we want partners to undertake the User Centred Design training to further understand how government carries out user-centred design to create inclusive services that are easy for people to use and how best to undertake user-centred design in an agile team. (Assuming GDS schedules further courses).
It would be extremely useful to have peer-to peer support from an authority which has been through the Digital Fund process to help us to tap into lessons learnt and gather information about the most effective research and communication tools used including help in accessing relevant research from government departments e.g. Culture, Media and Sport; Office for National Statistics etc.
In preparing this bid we have sought and received advice from a funded authority. If we were successful in our bid, we feel this is certainly an area where we would benefit from more extensive knowledge.
In preparing this bid we have researched current statistical information, but feel we have perhaps just tapped the surface.
We will welcome advice and support around the best sharing tools to contact and work with other authorities. The lead authority has already used Slack to communicate with other authorities and will continue to use this useful resource to reach authorities.
We would also seek help and advice procuring a Digital Consultant, perhaps using the existing Digital Marketplace.
We would further welcome the opportunity to seek advice regarding Gov.Pay and note previous discovery bid research which we believe would inform and link to our own research.