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Technology is a key enabler of any Office of Data Analytics. However, it also constitutes one of the biggest challenges within public sector organisations: different systems, poor connectivity and outdated hardware are only three of the most observed blockers to adopting new ways of working with data.

Having said this, the challenges should not be an excuse to delay using data more effectively. Research carried out in Nesta’s ‘Datavores of Local Government’ discussion paper has confirmed that much data-work in local authorities is still carried out using relatively basic tools such as Excel and SQL databases.

The flagship Office of Data Analytics, the New York Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) started out low-tech, using Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets, before upgrading to more sophisticated tools and analyses.

The first step will entail an honest assessment of what technology is currently available, starting from an audit of the basic hardware and software requirements through to available analytical tools. The overarching data strategy of the ODA can then be sketched out accordingly.

Together with individual evaluations of data maturity and technological infrastructure audits, other considerations should include:

Data quality and sharing frequency: Poor data quality and systems that do not talk to each other pose challenges where ongoing data sharing is required. It is important to understand if the ODA will work on a project by project basis requiring one-off sharing, or if it will require ongoing, routine data exchange. This will have a direct impact on the technical architecture that is needed for supporting data sharing.

In-house or outsourced data sharing architecture: commercial pre-built solutions are available on the market, but tailormade data sharing technical architectures can also be developed in-house or contracted from external consultants and suppliers.

At London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI), two data engineers will soon be joining the team to work on platform development.

Information Security: it is vital that the architecture observes not only individual organisational technical security requirements, but that it is also aligned with national guidance. Since 2018, there are new regulations on the security of network and information systems, and a number of organisations are being set up to provide oversight and enforcement of these.

ODAs across the UK have taken the following measures to ensure security and data safety:

  • Two out of nine have undertaken penetration testing to their storage to ensure data cannot be compromised;
  • Three out of nine have a dedicated data protection officer;
  • Two out of nine have engaged the Information Commissioner Officer in their work.

An overview of the most commonly used business intelligence solutions and additional technologies deployed across UK ODAs is available in the report.

Authors

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Programme Manager

Michelle worked in the Government Innovation team on how the smarter use of data and technology can help civil society and public sector organisations deliver services, better.

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Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Assistant Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Camilla is an Assistant Programme Manager in the Government Innovation Team.

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