Eddie Copeland tells GeoPlace conference that unique property reference numbers are crucial for matching and exploiting data
A leading figure in the public service innovation arena has urged authorities to make greater use of unique property reference numbers (UPRNs) in their data.
Eddie Copeland (pictured), director of government innovation at the Nesta foundation, told the GeoPlace 2017 conference that the UPRN – the unique identifier for every addressable location in Great Britain – is a prime mechanism for matching data from different systems and supporting its sharing.
He referred to observations from two ongoing data projects – the creation of a London Counter Fraud Hub and work between six local authorities in north-east England on assessing the influences on alcohol abuse – that showed there is a big difference between authorities able to provide usable data and those that struggle do so.
Copeland said there are two big distinguishing factors: “Number one, do you have a leadership team that gives your data staff freedom to work not just on KPI reporting and making sure databases are in tip top condition, but working with service managers on public service challengers?
“And also leadership teams that recognise there are risks to sharing data, but even bigger risks in not sharing data?”
He added that some of the worst horror stories in public services resulted from authorities failing to pull together all the relevant data when it was in fact available.
“The second part is to say those local authorities that can match together data from their disparate databases have found it easy to take part,” he said. “Those that can’t mostly have not been able to take part at all.
“I’m now convinced that any public sector organisation that wants to get involved in using data for better outcomes needs to nail two things. One is to connect together your geospatial data, use UPRNs. There is an easy way to match your record and amazing things you can do, but if you don’t have the UPRN you are making it impossible.
“Second is to join up your people data, and again this comes back to UPRNs. If you have records in different systems, often the best way to match them, to make sure Kevin Smith in one system is the same as K Smith in another, is to use the UPRN.”
UPRNs are produced by local authorities and managed by GeoPlace, a joint venture between the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey, with the aim of removing errors in the exchange of data.