Why are we doing this?
Local authorities sit in the middle of a web of information. Everything from social care for vulnerable children, waste collection, procurement, council tax collection to planning applications produces huge quantities of data. This data is sometimes garbled, hard to analyse or personal and sensitive. But it is potentially hugely beneficial in helping councils make services more targeted and effective, to allocate resources to where they will have the biggest impact, to save officer time in front and back office processes, and to provide insight into the causes of, and solutions to, costly social problems.
We want to help local authorities get more from the data they hold. Our research project will articulate the ways in which data analytics can help local authorities to find savings and improve outcomes for people and communities.
What are we doing?
Our research work will include case studies, interviews, surveys, desk based research and workshops. We will produce a series of written outputs with practical insights and lessons addressing the common barriers to working with data and setting out a range of strategies for getting more value from local authority data. We will also feed in our learning to relevant Nesta practical programmes such as the Offices of Data Analytics.
Councils around the UK are grappling with fundamental questions about how to improve the services they deliver.
- 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.
The need to transform the way local authorities meet local needs has never been greater, with challenging budget cuts creating pressure to change traditional ways of working.
Data and sophisticated analytics present councils with a with one of the tools to enable radical transformation of local public services.