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Mayor of London urged to dive into data

10/06/15

Capital City Foundation calls for London to follow New York’s lead in creating an Office of Data Analytics

A new report is urging the mayor of London to create an Office of Data Analytics similar to that in New York, in order to search for insights from datasets provided by its public service organisations.

BorisJohnson400x266Big Data in the Big Apple, published by the Capital City Foundation, says the office would comprise a small team of data analysts led by a chief analytics officer and reporting directly to the mayor. It could provide input into improving a range of public services, including increasing shared services, identifying empty homes and helping new businesses decide where to set up.

The message echoes an element of a report on local government IT published earlier this year by the Policy Exchange, which established the Capital City Foundation. It advocated that each city in the UK establishes an Office of Data Analytics to work out where the local public sector should target its resources.

Pressure on resources

The new report focuses on London as its population is growing strongly without a corresponding rise in the funds available to the city. It says the experience of New York shows that a data office for London could help it use resources more efficiently, improve communications between public sector organisations and pre-empt problems before they become serious.

It says that London cannot just replicate the New York model, largely because the mayor of the latter has much more extensive powers and there are different rules on data sharing and protection. But it should try to distil the core elements and adapt them for its own use.

It includes a number of lessons from New York, including the need to focus on outcomes that can provide a proven return on investment, and that any organisation wanting to use the office’s data should first share its own.

The report also says that a London team should begin by using data that already exists: it could make use of the London Data Store, datasets from data.gov.uk, and willing local partners in the public and private sector.

Eddie Copeland, the author of the report, told UKAuthority that it should be a priority to use existing data better before investing heavily in sensors around the city to collect more data; but the Greater London Authority (GLA) would need to invest in a database and analytics toolkit to support the team.

Modest investment

Copeland said the investment would be “very modest” and that the estimate for the entire New York project was about $5 million. He suggested that the intelligence and analysis team at the Greater London Authority could provide a start, and that there are well qualified master’s students in the capital’s universities who would be enthusiastic about getting involved.

“It’s important that a whole part of the model in New York has been that nothing goes beyond the trial stage unless it saves the city money,” he said.

He added that he has been speaking with the GLA intelligence team about the proposal, and hopes to speak to all the candidates for the 2016 mayoral election.

 

Pictured: Boris Johnson by Paul Clarke © | paulclarke.com

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