How can local authorities get more value from their data?

Local authorities sit right 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 jumbled, 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 time in front and back office processes, and to provide insight into the causes of, and solutions to, costly social problems.

Running a city or a local authority largely revolves around managing and responding to information. Increasing digitisation of services, the use of sensors and other forms of data collection means that there are emerging data sets which capture the wide variety of activities performed by councils. And while big data presents opportunities for local councils, there are equally important opportunities presented by smaller data sets already available to councils. Whether the data sets are big or small, there are major benefits to be had from using them more intelligently, sharing them more widely and making them more open.

A number of emerging trends are already revealing how some forward-thinking councils are using data:

1. Predictive Analytics 

Some local councils are using data analytics to predict events from potential child abuse to the likeliest locations for house fires and the school children most at risk of not completing their education. These insights equip local governments with more ability to take a preventative approach, putting in place interventions to try and avert problems rather than providing costly services in response.

2. Smart Cities

In some councils, such as Bristol, Glasgow and Milton Keynes, the combination of sensors, Internet of Things technologies and data are improving traffic management, tracking air pollution and making more efficient use of infrastructure such as street lights. These councils are also starting to take a citizen-centric approach to smart cities, collecting data from citizens to better understand how councils can use their resources in a way which reflects the ways in which people navigate and experience places.

3. Data warehousing

Through data warehousing, councils such as Manchester are combining data sets from across local government and the wider local public sector to enable deeper population level analysis, and to provide frontline professionals with a much more comprehensive picture of people receiving services. Such datasets can be enablers of the historically challenging objective of partnership working across public services.

4. Open Data

Using open data portals and analytics hubs, councils are becoming more transparent and better engaged with their residents and communities. Such communities include developers, entrepreneurs and innovators who are able to use open data to create businesses, products and services. Alongside finding solutions for public or social problems, this is an important source of local economic growth.

5. Geo-spatial analytics

Councils have made considerable use of geo-spatial data to improve services, such as optimising waste collection routes and reduce inefficiency and duplication in transactional services. This is one of the most established areas of data analytics in local government, with studies finding a cost-benefit ratio of a £4 return for every £1 spent on the use of geo-spatial data.

To achieve these insights, a number of local councils are turning to Microsoft’s Power BI to ultimately enable them to make better business decisions. Power BI works by connecting to hundreds of data sources which enables you to simplify data preparation and drive ad hoc analysis.

To see how Camden Council are using Power BI to track data from crime and traffic incidents to planning applications and tree preservation, view their Power BI dashboard here.

Alternatively, to hear from one of our customers, check out our on-demand webinar with Jon Burt, Head of Technology Operations and Infrastructure at Salford City Council as he explains how the council is embracing in-depth business intelligence capabilities, including Big Data and IoT initiatives to not only improve local services but also transform the way the council interacts with residents.

Watch the webinar on-demand here.

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