The Local Datavores Research Programme

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How well do local authorities use data?

Across local authorities are asking questions about how they can redesign services, save money and drive local economic growth.

  • How many people will need adult social care services in 5 years time?
  • Which children are most likely to enter the care system and what support might prevent this happening?
  • How can traffic flows, public transport, cycle lanes and town centres be optimised to help local businesses to grow?
  • Which households are most likely to fall into council tax arrears?
  • How can money be saved on refuse collection by only emptying bins when they are full?
  • How effective are local authority commissioned services at delivering positive social outcomes?

​The common factor in the above questions is that they can all be answered, at least in part, by analysis of public sector data. And around the world, there are governments using data and sophisticated analytics to answer very similar questions.

In New York, data analysis predicts which buildings are most likely to have a fire, enabling fire safety inspections to be prioritised. In Seoul, mobile phone and geospatial data were used to provide a night bus service to a city of 10m people with just 30 vehicles. Other governments are analysing multiple data sets to help with prevention in health and social care services, such as predicting adverse birth outcomes, or children most at risk of abuse.

Councils have access to more data and better analytical tools now than at any point in history. From council tax collection to protecting vulnerable people, this data can provide insight into how we can improve outcomes for people and communities with ever decreasing resources.

This comes at a point where the need and potential for transforming the way local authorities meet local needs has never been greater, with challenging budget cuts creating pressure to change traditional ways of working. If used effectively, local authority data can be a major part of public service innovation, helping to achieve efficiencies and radical service transformation.

Data and sophisticated analytics present local authorities with a huge opportunity; the potential to transform local government service delivery, making it more efficient, more effective and more responsive to the needs of local residents, businesses and communities. While data and analytics may not provide the solution to all the challenges faced by councils, it’s hard to imagine any credible answers to these challenges in which the better use of data isn’t part of the story.

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