Data-Driven Local Government Innovation
Data-powered insights are not the exclusive domain of the biggest central government departments. In cities and counties all over the UK, public sector organisations are developing innovation projects that harness the potential of data to design and deliver better services for residents.
At the Government Transformation Show, the panel discussion ‘Government Data & Local Innovation’ brought together local government data leaders to share their ideas and insights on data-driven innovation at a local level.
Dionne Lowndes - Chief Digital and Technology Officer, London Borough of Southwark
What happened quickly with the onset of the pandemic was the realisation that we needed to work across boundaries. The work that's been done with the voluntary sector has really highlighted the need for a future model of technology that can support agencies working with residents.
So we developed a vulnerability hub which highlighted that by sharing data with the different agencies, we could serve and support residents better. That really made us question the role of data in the organisation, and also the opportunities to work across the whole of the council to create a single view of the resident.
In Southwark, there's a real appetite to use digital, data and technology, so we're working with key parts of the business such as Adult Services, Children's Services, and Housing, to build that single view of residents. There’s a realisation that Children's Services and Adult Services benefit from information like housing data - it’s a more holistic view.
There's a transformation in the technology ecosystem now that means you don’t have to have separate systems in each department. With different technology stacks, there’s an opportunity to build different layers, power platforms, connecting different systems and using that for data to power business intelligence.
There are a lot of quick wins to be had through working with other authorities and being a fast follower. There’s been a bit of elitism that says “we’ve got to create it to have it”, but now we think “borrow with pride”.
Frank Wood - Chief Analytical Officer, Leeds City Council
The pandemic created a drive towards innovation, use of digital, use of data, more granular use of data and access to data that really opened people's eyes to what could be done.
We have the Office of Data Analytics for Leeds and I think it's split fairly neatly into platform and people - the people who have the technical skills to develop and build that platform, and then the actual frontline service users who want access to that data. It’s about being able to put the data in the hands of the people who need to use it to make those better-informed decisions. The purpose of that data platform, whether we use cloud technology or whatever fits the purpose, is about being data-agnostic and feeding any data into that environment and then bringing it back out to the people who use it to make decisions.
Once you have that capability, the organisation needs to support laypeople to ask better questions of data. You can build step-by-step to improve the technical skills of the people who are putting these data together, they can then deliver it into the hands of the people that need to use it. This creates a virtuous circle, as the users ask better questions that challenge and improve the data quality.
Where you’re bringing in new technology and time-limited external support, are you making sure those contractors are transferring their knowledge into the organisation rather than leaving with it? It's often been the case that you have a contractor in perpetuity, because they're the only one that knows how to use this brand new system.
Build into those contracts that the external partner is going to transfer this knowledge, because we want to develop our in-house staff to use these new tools and technologies better.