The Improvement Service and East Ayrshire Council recently ran a workshop on data science and analytics advice and guidance. Many of the council’s service managers and transformation officers were in attendance and involved in breakout sessions to discuss topics raised.
The chief message throughout the workshop, as highlighted by the Spatial Information Service’s Simon Roberts, was that data science and analytics (not to mention much digital transformation) will only ever be as good as the underlying data being collected. Therefore, if little thought, resourcing and transformation is currently being put into data management (and this is known to be the case across the local government landscape), perhaps this is the best place to start before thinking about investing heavily in specific data science and analytics projects.
Simon proposed that a good place to start would be ensuring that all local authority systems, where relevant, should be using official address data (as compiled by local authority’s address custodians) with UPRN (Unique Property Reference Numbers) as mandatory. This ‘golden thread’ of data ensures that datasets can be effortlessly joined together to gain insight and knowledge about various phenomena. A good example of this is joining datasets together (using UPRN) to look for discrepancies in council tax payments and, hence, increasing revenue (as has happened in Angus recently).
Of course, some areas of local government are doing this (data management) better than others and this certainly came out of the round table discussions during the workshop. Time was spent considering what East Ayrshire needs to do to build a fully functioning, efficient and holistic data infrastructure.
Nick Cassidy of the IS research team presented the kinds of techniques and technologies that are available to local government for this kind of analysis and insight, alongside some notable examples of where this is being done across the public sector. Gerard McCormack, Interim Head of Change and Partnership Delivery at the IS, also presented some recent spatial analysis that others in the IS have been conducting on the expansion of funded early learning and childcare provision to 1140 hours.
It is hoped that this workshop will kick start the council into thinking about how they can begin to improve their data management and usage across the council to help improve and transform their services.
The IS is open to conducting similar sessions with other councils as part of our transformation programme. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.