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LGA creates online data maturity assessment tool



Association uses Nesta model to help councils assess the state of their data and point to areas for improvement

The Local Government Association (LGA) is about to launch an online tool for councils to assess their level of data maturity.

Tim Adams (pictured), programme manager for data and transparency at the LGA, outlined the project at the City Data Analytics conference staged by innovation foundation Nesta in London yesterday.

He said it will be available within the Tools section of the LG Inform Plus microsite to support the use of data in local government.

“It’s trying to help councils see where they are in the improvement journey, and then try to move along and improve,” he said.

The tool is based on the data maturity model included in Nesta’s Wise Council report from 2016.

“Last year we decided to open this up, so that rather than someone going through the pages we could put together an online self-assessment tool that is open to local government, although it applies to many organisations,” Adams said.

Feedback decision

Early in the year the LGA ran some focus groups and workshops in which about 30 councils took part. It initially looked at whether the tool should be aimed at assessing organisations or projects, the latter of which was dropped after the feedback came in.

The tool involves a series of questions - five on the use of data and seven on the cultural issues - similar to the model of psychometric testing. The answers feed into visual and textual indications of how well their data is developed and provides suggestions for the council’s next steps.

Adams pointed out that it needs a careful approach as to who takes part in the exercise.

“The advantage of that is that you can encourage organisational discussions, while the disadvantage is that it can be difficult to know if you have the right people answering the questions,” he said. “Are they talking on behalf of the organisation or just a project they are on, and so on.”

He added that as the tool collects more data it will be able to give councils a picture of how they stand against others, and that it should support the more effective use of data.

Adding fuel

“It’s only in the past 18-24 months that I’ve detected that the people in our organisations have realised that data has value, and it can be used and reused and add fuel to evidence based decision making.”

The tool has been developed partly because many local authorities have struggled to retain their data staff due to financial pressures and the LGA is trying to help plug some of the gaps.

Adams said the LGA will work with Nesta look at any trends that become apparent and what has been learned, and put authorities in touch with each other to learn about different aspects of the data maturity model.

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