Connecting council-wide data and mastering citizen services

city council

Written by Richard Shreeve, Consultancy Director, Civica Digital

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 this article I will aim to explains what councils can do to start harnessing these hugely valuable insights.

In our latest online forum with London boroughs, we found that the number one priority for authorities was to leverage 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

For many councils there is still the daunting task of managing data risk, asking the question “how do you balance insight versus data privacy?” It’s well known that 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 demonstrate that they can be trusted with other people’s data will ultimately have the foundation to deliver better and more relevant services to their citizens.

Is a data foundation really essential?

In this data-rich sector, new 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 unfortunately 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 by 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 comprehensive picture of your citizens and release immediate cost savings to the council. Regardless of where you are in your digital transformation journey, it’s never too late to build or improve upon your data strategy. At Civica Digital we have worked 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 technology. A good place to start would be to hear more through our on demand masterclass “Mind the data gap for local authorities” and discover how to bridge the data gap and make the step to insights driven. Gaining an understanding of how to connect intelligence between your departments, partners and technologies, and better leverage your existing technology investments is essential.

Originally published here.

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