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ODI calls for more councils to address open data



Invitation comes as institute highlights four projects showing progress in supporting local government services

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has put out a call for public sector officials to talk to it about creating and testing tools that use data in new ways for public services.

It has also claimed significant progress in four projects supported by a round of funding from national innovation agency Innovate UK.

The institute said the invitation is also open to people working with public authorities, or who have designed tools to help in the redesign of services.

Jeni Tennison, chief executive officer at the ODI, said it follows the initial projects having shown “how collaboration and open innovation can lead to novel approaches and build digital and data capability within local government teams”.

She added: “We hope that this work helps inspire other local and regional governments to experiment with using data as a tool to inform the delivery of public services, save money and better support communities.”

The projects have been run as part of a £6 million three-year innovation programme, managed by the ODI, which aims to build data infrastructure, stimulate data innovation and build trust in the use of data.

Careers information

One of the projects has involved Doncaster Council and service designer Uscreates using council data, along with conversations with learners and career advisors, to create a tool that helps young people find information about their options for training, education and employment.

It has led to the Social Mobility Opportunity Area Board in Doncaster signing off £100,000 of funding to develop a prototype over the next six months with a target ‘go live’ date of January 2019.

Uscreates has also been involved with Kent County Council and the Kent Energy Efficiency Partnership in an effort to address fuel poverty in the county. They used a range of closed, shared, and open datasets to look at which segments of the population are more at risk, along with health and care needs by postcode.

Systems dynamic modelling also allowed the team to quantify the number people likely to be affected by fuel poverty and how that would impact the prevalence of chronic health conditions and the demand for healthcare.

Dipna Pattni from Kent Energy Efficiency Partnership said: “By using open data to understand more about the demographic of our residents, we can create services which are preventative and tailored to the needs of those receiving them. Services can switch from reactively supporting people after a crisis, to preventing the crisis in the first place.”

Open by default

In another project, North Lanarkshire Council adopted an ‘open by default’ data policy, and working with design agency Snook and smart cities specialist Urban Tide applied it to its business rate data. This has helped it to better understand demand for the data and reduce Freedom of Information requests.

Fourthly, Waltham Forest Council, arts and culture research charity Audience Agency and tech company Technology Box used the borough’s bid to become London’s first Borough of Culture to explore how data and technology can help to increase engagement in arts, heritage and culture.

They installed Wi-Fi access point technology inside all main rooms within the Vestry House Museum, and combination of footfall data and splash page responses (to the home page of a website) enabled the project team to map user journeys within the museum. This insight could then be referred to when exploring the wider ‘cultural footprint’ of the borough.

The team also ensured it acted ethically and engaged the community in decisions about the collection and use of data throughout the project. This has enabled it to look at consumer behaviours in relation to location.

The ODI has pointed out that each team that took part in the programme consisted of a local authority and external partners which specialise in either service design, data, research or technology. They helped to build skills and knowledge across the teams for this and future projects.

Ministers' approval

The projects have won the support of Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James, who commented: “Used correctly data can be an incredibly powerful tool to improve services used by people every day. It’s great to see that the Open Data Institute is promoting the positive use of data in ways which can stimulate the local economy and boost growth.”

The ODI followed up by saying that over the next year it plans to work with the public sector and service design partners to create and test tools that help people use open data when delivering and designing services.

Image by justgrimes, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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