Digital Wigan



Mother and daughter learning together



Year 7-9 students doing the award



Community organisations meet the Duke of York

Wigan Council’s digital strategy is to make sure all of our residents have the confidence and skills they need to use digital services.

Our chief executive, Alison Mckenzie-Folan, is a passionate digital leader and advocates digital by default in everything the Council wants to achieve.

We are committed to developing and enhancing the digital capabilities of our workforce to allow them to adapt and innovate within our constantly evolving digital workplace. We also want to support businesses to utilise digital markets and enhance the local economy.

We have introduced a number of initiatives through our Digital Taskforce, a collective of individuals in the private, public and voluntary sectors committed to the development of ‘digital’. As a result, since April 2016, the borough has reached the following:

From April 2016 - Sept 2018
 Total number of residents reached13,207
 Total number of support hours provided by digital volunteers10,021
 Total number of children and young people reached (0 - 16 year olds)4,057
 Total number of people aged 55+ supported1,543

According to Tech Partnership and Lloyds Banking Group, digital exclusion in Wigan has reduced from medium in 2015 to low in 2017 and is much lower than most adjoining boroughs.

The likelihood of digital exclusion is estimated using digital and social indicators, and the results as shown on the heatmap (external link) are a strong indicator of the work being done by Wigan Council and our Digital Taskforce partners.


iDEA (external link) is The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, a nationally recognised scheme that gives learners the opportunity to develop their digital, employability and enterprise skills using ‘bite sized’ online learning modules. Uniquely, iDEA is suitable for young people and adults.

Wigan is the first authority in the UK to actively roll out iDEA to all of its residents, young people and staff. A ‘Wigan badge’ has been developed allowing us to track residents taking part.

Since its launch, 1,600 learners across Wigan have completed over 18,800 digital badges. We’ve also shared best practice with 9 other local authorities at a GMCA event in May 2018. These districts are now embarking on their own iDEA journey.

In January 2019 we presented to Lancashire Skills Hub to talk about our experiences of delivering iDEA to help them formulate their own digital upskilling action plan.

Using iDEA to upskill the borough

As a council we have a ‘digital first’ approach, so it’s important to us that our staff are digitally enabled. All council apprentices now undertake the award as part of their internal training programme.

Councillors are also being encouraged to undertake the award, so they can help their constituents engage digitally with the council. Partner organisations in the community are offering iDEA to adult service users as the skills gained are invaluable for job seekers - the award is even helping those who previously had no digital experience to get online. iDEA is one tool partners can use to help benefit claimants to better understand the new online only process for Universal Credit.

Wigan Council’s positive relationship with Wigan and Leigh College and a number of other education partners, has lead to the successful introduction of iDEA to students across the borough. Cansfield High School adopting it as an end of term project for students in years 7-9.

Head of Careers, Ian Darbyshire said: “At Cansfield we engaged with iDEA for all our Y7-9 students in their PD lesson. We found that they enjoyed doing the award especially building up the points. As some students pushed on, their confidence and self-esteem increased as other students were asking them for advice on how to get past difficult challenges.”

We are also developing a strategy for introducing iDEA in local primary schools piloting sessions with Aspull Holy Family Year 5 children. We very much hope this will result in some of the youngest iDEA Award winners in the world.

A pioneer council

As a result of our work, we’ve been awarded ‘pioneer’ status by the Duke of York - a marque that we’re very proud of. We welcomed the Duke of York to the Turnpike Centre in Leigh, April 2018, where he spoke to learners and delivery partners, and awarded certificates to some of our high school and college students, and apprentices.

Promoting digital creativity

Wigan Council delivered the D:Circus Digital Art Project, a two-year programme funded by Arts Council England and Wigan Council, working collaboratively with Wigan libraries, museums, artists and organisations to deliver high quality digital art.

The project covered different aspects of digital art, perfectly capturing the excitement and variety of a digital circus.

We ran a variety of events and learning opportunities for all ages across the borough, introducing residents to new digital skills through iDEA Award, coding, creative apps and games.

D:Circus has catalysed an explosion of digital activity across the borough inspiring 3623 adults and 2741 children to look at the digital world in new and exciting ways. By taking a unique approach to challenging digital exclusion, we’ve inspired Wigan residents to embrace digital skills through creativity and art. Grand events such as Light Night gave Wigan a high-profile event comparable with the big city festivals of Liverpool and Manchester. As a result, Wigan was more visible as a digital and cultural leader, setting a standard that will no doubt help draw in established digital professionals and artists in the future.

From the outset we wanted D:Circus to spark future career paths. To date it has established 75 digital artists who are now contributing to Wigan’s growing creative economy. As part of D:Circus, local artist Louise Robson developed the ‘Curiosity Boxes’ project helping local children to realise the creative potential of the BBC Micro Bit.

Online services

As part of The Deal we are committed to making our services accessible online. Our MyAccount platform allows our residents to securely access a range of services including Council Tax, Housing Benefit, council housing, registrar services, parking, pest control, bins and waste.

To date, we have 143,000 residents signed up to MyAccount

Our ReportIT service allows residents to report issues either through the MyAccount platform or on an app on their device. Since it’s launch, we have received over 47,000 reports. This allows our staff to spend more time in assisting our most vulnerable residents.

The council’s website is the main source of information for residents, receiving 3.7 million visits in 2017-18 and achieving a 4 star SOCITM rating - something only a handful of councils have achieved this top rating.

Digital Her - Paving the way for careers in digital

On 5th March 2019 we held our Digital Her conference, hosted by Manchester Digital and sponsored by a range of digital employers. The day brought together 120 girls from Wigan’s school network to meet inspirational female role models from across the tech industry. They participated in workshops to learn more about the sector and the career pathways available. We received excellent feedback from the schools involved and are now working with teaching staff to explore ways to continue the journey through curriculum and careers related activity

Rolling out our 'BeWigan Services for Schools' portal

Our new portal offers a one-stop-shop for schools to quickly purchase Council services throughout the year, with no wait and no fuss. Not only is it a great tool for advertising our services but it’s played a vital role in improving transparency, allowing the Council and schools a clearer view on transaction and communication records.

We’ve also made our portal available to partner and community organisations, so they can advertise their own services. This has strengthened the footing that community groups have in schools, providing a range of enrichment opportunities for children outside of the school environment. As a result, community groups’ have maximised their income and promoted growth, benefiting both the users of the groups and the wider community.

Shortly after the portal’s launch, we received some great feedback from the School Business Manager at Beech Hill Primary School in Wigan:

“Just thought I would drop you a line about the new SLA Purchasing Service. I think it’s brilliant to have everything in one place, using the drop downs to choose the services and ask for quotes, then being able to check out quickly.”

Smart Wigan - ICT Transformation through Technology

Wigan’s ICT Transforming through Technology Programme continues to utilise new technology to digitally transform our services wherever possible, enriching the customer journey and experience and wrapping services around the residents.

Connected borough - We have enabled staff and colleagues to work across the borough and improved connectivity, providing tools like Govroam at our locations to allow for collaborative onsite working.

Connected staff - In the last year our core operational services such as planning, highways, early help and greenspaces have reduced service delivery times by removing manual processes, enhancing our online services and becoming completely digital end to end, with staff fully agile. This builds on our success in both adults and children’s services, enabling an agile frontline workforce.

Connected residents - We continue to explore how technology enabled care (TEC) will help solve some of the problems in health and social care within the borough. Our digital bungalow showcases how TEC can help elderly or vulnerable people live independently for longer. This would have a huge impact on the lives of our residents, offering real solutions.

Digital growth for business in Wigan

Our Digital Growth Service, delivered in partnership with the Business Growth Hub, supports local business in developing the best digital strategies. Over the past 12 months, we’ve provided specialist digital growth advice to over 200 local businesses, helping them improve their use of digital technologies. By doing this, we can drive forward innovation, performance and growth, and contribute to the creation of jobs across the borough.

The service offers one to one support that includes detailed diagnostic services, guidance, strategic vision and project assistance on all things digital. We also run training courses and workshops on digital technologies and skills. Digital events range from drop in clinics, half day workshops and short courses, all offering unique programmes tailored to tackle the digital needs of local businesses. We want to ensure businesses in the borough gain real value from their digital projects.

We’re also part of the taskforce focussed on the planning and delivery of the  Destination Digital Conference.

Recognition of our digital work in Wigan

In recognition of our digital work with partners in Wigan, we have been awarded:

LGC Awards 2019 v4
  • Local Government Chronical (LGC) Council of the Year 2019
  • Digital Leaders: Digital Skills or Inclusion Initiative 2018
  • Digital Leaders: Digital Council of the Year 2016
  • Local Government Chronical (LGC) Digital Council of the Year 2016
  • North West Partnership Award at Go On North West ‘I Made a Difference Award’ 2015.

Additionally, Councillor Nazia Rehman is among finalists in the Technology and Digital category of the LGiU Councillor Achievement Awards following the successful take-up of the nationally recognised iDEA scheme and the delivery of Wigan Council’s digital strategy.

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