05 May 2021

Building back better: Being ‘data driven’ in Local Government

Guest blog: Gordon Morrison, Senior Director for EMEA Government Affairs at Splunk as part of our #DigitalPlace week

Depending on who you ask and what you read we have gone through a period of unprecedented technological change in the last year. Some people estimate it as ten years’ worth of transformation. We’ve seen a 70% increase in internet use, 76% increase in ecommerce and 65% 1 of customer interactions are now digital.   

Whatever your view, the citizens of the UK will expect services to be increasingly delivered digitally and for data to be used to provide a citizen centric service tailored to their specific needs. So, does this mean Local Authorities need to recruit more ‘expensive’ technical specialists and data scientists in an era where funding is very difficult or even non-existent? The answer is probably not, different skills may be needed but to sustain the transformation that has been provoked by the COVID-19 crises we will need to address a number of common themes and be able to ask any question of our citizen’s data.  

The barriers to better use of data are well known; no consistent data sharing mindset in the public sector, lack of common data standards, significant legacy and technical debt, little data leadership, lack of data ownership, poor data quality and huge amounts of ‘dark-data’ which is unused and untapped.   

The post COVID-19 recovery era is an opportunity to use the momentum to overcome some of these issues and focus like never before on data driven outcomes. In our view traditional architectural approaches such as data lakes and data hubs will not deliver for us as they restrain flexibility and cannot easily deal with legacy data or dark data. Nor should we try and ‘throw people’ at the problem.   

The focus should be on the utilisation of all data whether it is structured or unstructured and to target rich sources of untapped ‘dark’ data. Our concept of data driven local authorities means that relevant operational data, system metrics and organisational KPIs would be integrated within a local authority operational data platform and monitored against policy objectives. This data fabric approach means that not everyone needs to be a data scientist. Subject to appropriate privacy and other controls, staff should be encouraged and empowered to innovate with data and to ask any question of data. Organisations will find new ways to use that data to make better decisions, deliver better citizen outcomes and use data to better measure the impact of data-driven policy.   

A more detailed thought leadership paper on this data driven concept can be read here, but as funding likely becomes scarce over the next few years and citizens demand more from local authorities, taking a data driven approach may be a natural way of ‘building back better’.   

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Programme Head, Local Public Services, techUK

Charlie Wyatt

Programme Assistant, techUK