Data gold rush: Connecting council data & mastering citizen services

As the world continues to turn to digital, data from a broad spectrum of devices and tools is being stored and collected at an unprecedented rate. Councils across the UK are already sitting on this hugely valuable and available data but for many their legacy systems, disjointed data structures and limited internal data knowledge is causing a disconnect between their data and the insights that could revolutionise citizen services.

In our online forum with London boroughs, we found the number one priority for authorities was to use insights that support vulnerable families sooner and deliver more personalised adult services more effectively. However, when asked at what stage the boroughs were at in their journey to becoming truly insights-driven, all involved were still limited to localised data strategies, ubiquitous spreadsheets, with aspirations for a council-wide data structure.

In working with UK authorities, some have begun connecting data sources, harnessing multi-agency data sharing and enabling a single citizen view that focusses on efficiency and outcomes. They’re laying the foundations for fully automated data insights, immediately impacting performance and delivering significant benefits to citizen outcomes across the board – from supporting vulnerable families sooner to identifying high risk areas for rent arrears and rapidly determining the most effective course of support. So, if extracting intelligence from data and automating insights is such a golden opportunity, why is it still an obstacle for many councils?

Data risks vs data rewards

Many councils still face the daunting task of managing data risk, asking the question, “How do you balance insight versus data privacy?”  Public trust is hard to win but very easy to lose, and citizens and regulators now expect organisations to manage data responsibly and with transparency. Yet, with growing pressures for councils to deliver even more personalised services, it can seem difficult for organisations to facilitate. As a result, only the organisations who can visualise council-wide insights across their services and show they can be trusted with other people’s data will ultimately have the foundation to deliver better and more relevant services to local people.

Is a data foundation really essential?

In this data-rich sector, new cloud enabled technologies such as blockchain and AI are reinventing how councils can harness more valuable data with even deeper analytics. These and many more technologies are increasingly delivering new opportunities for councils to innovate, drive efficiency and improve services from councils. But, until an effective data management strategy is adopted to underpin these technologies, harnessing the benefits of predictive analytics or adopting the IOT will be limited to business wishes only.

The bigger concern is that without a robust data management strategy, not only are councils missing out on actionable data insights from today to meet current personalised demands from citizens, they’re also at risk of falling behind the demands of tomorrow. Digital transformation of local government is non-negotiable and will involve many more twists. The good news is laying the foundation for a robust, compliant, insights-driven future will give councils a golden ticket to the party, whatever this may look like. 

How to act now?

Putting the right foot forward with a connected data strategy can enable fast access to business critical information, help build a fuller picture of citizens and release immediate cost savings to the council. Regardless of where councils are in the digital transformation journey, it’s never too late to build or improve upon your data strategy. Civica works with councils across the UK to define their data strategy and help accelerate their data-to-insights process, all the while balancing privacy and the need to innovate with new, transformational technology.

See the rest of this weeks' #CounciloftheFuture campaign week blogs here

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