Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member GeoPlace
Each month, techUK's Associate Director for Local Public Services, Georgina Maratheftis, interviews a member active in the local government space about their vision for the future of local public services and where digital can make a real difference to people and society. This month we talk to Gayle Gander, Head of Marketing at GeoPlace and a local authority councillor about the role that digital plays in joining up data to support public services, good commerce and excellent governance.
Welcome Gayle. Firstly, tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you Georgina. I’ve always been interested in maps and knowing precisely where things are so a career in geographic information was a natural step. As Deputy Director of the Association for Geographic Information, I worked with data suppliers, data users and policymaker, and participated in the raft of national initiatives around spatial information that emerged in the early 2000s. It soon became clear to me that a project that was being incubated within the Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA), the National Land & Property Gazetteer, had huge potential to transform service delivery, and I wanted to be part of it. I joined Intelligent Addressing (IA), the IDeA’s private sector partner in 2006. In 2010, IA was bought out by government and GeoPlace was formed. Now, we look after the nation’s address and street indexes, curating 46,503,237 million addresses and 1,575,882 streets with around 1,800,000 changes per month from local authorities.
Last May I was elected a Councillor in the London Borough of Croydon. My two roles are complementary. At GeoPlace, I work with local government and highlight best practice in the use of location data, particularly the UPRNs and USRNs held within the national indexes. At Croydon I can see this in action.
What is the greatest opportunity for local government when it comes to digital?
Many local authorities duplicate the effort needed to maintain datasets, systems and databases. Business areas have their own applications which don’t link to other systems or data, so data isn’t shared or connected. Data is held in hundreds of spreadsheets, multiple access databases, emails, paper maps and records, system bespoke databases, contractor systems and shared network drives with no consistent approach to using, retrieving, updating, and interpreting the data. This means that there isn’t a single view on what is happening, where, across the whole of the authority.
At its heart, local government is all about the ‘where’. Where the bins are missed. Where the fly tips are – whether they on an adopted or an unadopted road. Where the council house tenants are who need support. Location data can reference and connect these services and UPRNs provide the golden thread to link systems together to provide the insight needed to reduce queries from residents, to track home care allocation, ensure that vulnerable people get the support they deserve, or support digital transformation.
As the LGA says, “UPRNS are key to almost everything that’s delivered or achieved by councils.” When UPRNs are added to each siloed department’s data, the whole organisation benefits and it becomes a much simpler exercise to link inter-departmental information.
What is your vision for the future of local public services and places?
Data connects people, places, systems, and processes. Linkable data is the golden thread that enables both the public and private sector to provide effective, efficient, people centric services. Fraud detection and prevention, emergency response provision, our continued COVID response – all of these services depend on having access to and the ability to manage complex data at scale.
Government has thousands of different databases – UK wide - but they don’t talk to each other. Fixing this is fundamental to the delivery of the efficiency programmes. Database management is crucial to modern government, and a severe limitation when datasets cannot be joined. As a core part of the UK’s digital infrastructure, UPRNs are a powerful, yet under-exploited means to link public sector datasets to improve decision making, citizen outcomes and market efficiency.
The Office for National Statistics is creating it’s ‘Integrated Data Service’, a central hub of high-quality accessible information, critical for driving efficiency and improving public services. I share this vision. I would like to see data professionals in very local authority, who are responsible for integrating, standardising and linking datasets, ready to embrace the opportunities offered by technology, and to be ‘data ready’ for the next pandemic or fuel crisis that hits the county.
Georgina is techUK’s Associate Director for Local Public Services
Georgina works with suppliers that are active or looking to break into the market as well as with local public services to create the conditions for meaningful transformation. techUK regularly bring together local public services and supplier community to horizon scan and explore how the technologies of today and tomorrow can help solve some of the most pressing problems our communities face and improve outcomes for our people and places.
Prior to techUK, Georgina worked for a public policy events company where she managed the policy briefing division and was responsible for generating new ideas for events that would add value to the public sector. Georgina worked across a number of portfolios from education, criminal justice, and health but had a particular interest in public sector transformation and technology. Georgina also led on developing relationships across central and local government.
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