The conference in Seville provided a platform for showcasing examples of new technologies social services are using to drive innovation. This includes data-driven analytics, information sharing software, and technological solutions to support users and professionals.

Transforming service planning and delivery

The analysis of large data sets is increasingly being applied in the context of social services to support evidence-based policies and decision-making. The software corporation, SAP, explored this in detail at their conference workshop. They highlighted that in the American state of Indiana data analytics has challenged pre-existing assumptions with regard to a high infant mortality rate, and was also used to make recommendations for service responses to issues of drug abuse.

Social services are also adopting new digital software to improve access to information on services. The region of Andalusia, Spain, explained at the Conference how they have developed a digital map of social services. The map enables professionals and citizens to easily find information on local social services centres across Andalusia. It also offers possibilities to support service planning and evaluation by revealing information on the population served by each centre and the type of services they receive.

Technological software can also promote early intervention and more integrated service delivery. The PACT project from the region of Castilla y León incorporates a number of tools developed in partnership with other public organisations and the third sector. One such tool is an electronic shared social record which collates information from social services and the third sector to provide a unique service user profile. Another is a predictive algorithm which evaluates whether a service user is at high or low risk and sends alerts to professionals to support their decision making.

AI: Supporting professionals and users

Participants at the Conference also shared technological solutions to more specific issues which can save time for professionals and empower service users. IBM’s David Nelson described how artificial intelligence (AI) systems can process notes taken by social workers, allowing them to spend more time with service users.

The Swedish municipality of Randers showed how they empowered service users by developing an app for people with special needs. The app helps them carry out household tasks such as using a washing machine, without requiring professional support from carers, enabling them to live more independently.

Technology: A game changer

Different examples of new technologies presented at the Conference indicate that technology can be a powerful force for driving innovation in social services. Luis Delgado Sancho from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission argued that social innovation must be at the centre of European political debates, in particular the new European Pillar of Social Rights, describing technology as a “game changer”.

Despite the opportunities technology presents there are also challenges. Social services must ensure that staff have the required skills to use technology to its full potential, and that the introduction of new technologies is aligned to the needs of professionals and service users. 

More information on the Conference speakers and workshops is available on the Conference website. Delegates can review all the presentation materials through the ESSC 2018 mobile app.