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Useful things with data in London


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Secure information sharing has long been on the agenda of most local authorities, but ambitious initiatives in London over the past 12 months helped lay the groundwork for harnessing data across the capital during the coronovirus response.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has been working with the Open Data Institute on the next iteration of the London Datastore, looking beyond open data towards an environment in which more sensitive data can be shared securely for analysis and value creation.

During 2019 the GLA expanded its data to include work on air quality with the Turing Institute, tree canopy cover and cultural infrastructure. Data collaborations using open and secure data for growing suite of ‘digital twins’ including the Infrastructure Map, London’s underground assets, economic growth simulation and a reform of planning data. This work is now helping with plans to support recovery post-covid.      

The GLA was also instrumental in creation of the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI), operating within the London Councils group, which has made information sharing one of the focus areas for its early work. 

LOTI incorporates the GLA’s Borough Data Partnership, which brings together local authorities in the city to collaborate in organising, structuring and sharing data, and the City Data Analytics Programme, a virtual hub for data collaborations between public service organisations.

Gateway adoption

The GLA has adopted the Information Sharing Gateway to share data in a safe, ethical and secure manner to use it in tackling big social and public services challenges. This moves London towards a more standardised approach towards information governance across the boroughs, assisted by standard templates for agreements for specific purposes.

Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer for the GLA, says this represents real progress in information sharing, with 15 of London’s boroughs involved in LOTI’s core founding group informing work with all 32 boroughs.

He adds that a benefit from the Local Digital Declaration could be in shaping a more consistent and confident approach to information sharing. People have different understandings of existing legislation, including the Digital Economy Act and General Data Protection Regulation, which sometimes leads to failures in information governance. The declaration could provide the stronger understanding more widely, and the confidence at senior level in organisations to ensure there is political backing for wider sharing.

Camden Council has provided an example of their approach stemming from the LDD and its own data enabled organisational vision of being open and bringing data together to improve lives and deliver better services.

Sudip Trivedi, the council’s head of data and analytics, says the approach was designed for collaboration and that it currently brings together data for various purposes in order to improve services or outcomes. For example, the council is joining together social care data for reporting SALT (short and long term) statutory returns in a way that can be reused to improve performance and apply early intervention approach to services. It is also using data as part of a new approach to housing and the Camden Landlord Service, which aims to apply whole system approach to the issue.

Camden has a number of building blocks around its use of data that it intends to build upon, including its work with AWS implementing a data lake and building on its previous work around a local datastore, Camden Open Data6. It is also borough lead for the information sharing framework workstream of LOTI and is working alongside the GLA.

The London Fire Service is currently seeking buy-in from all 15 boroughs in the workstream to agree to an information sharing framework approach.

Trivedi says that a crucial element of this is working towards an approach that can be shared to avoid duplication of effort. Elements of this are likely to be in how organisations anonymise data (if necessary) and ensuring the shared data is used for specific purposes in a secure and ethical manner.

Datastore architecture

Blackwell says the next step will be working with the Open Data Institute  on how the architecture of the London Datastore needs to evolve and what services it should provide over the next decade. It will require a strengthened remit as it supports the authority’s work in strategic analysis, providing valuable input into policy on issues such as reducing violent crime, improving air quality and reducing congestion.

He also points to the long term success in data sharing being likely to arise from meaningful individual use case projects which show demonstrable worth to citizens. Information sharing will be judged by its outcomes for the public rather than the structures and strategy on which it is based.

Another significant initiative emerging from the capital has been LOTI’s launch of the City Tools: a London interactive dashboard, mapping the digital technologies, contracts and skills in the majority of the city’s boroughs.

Collectively, boroughs and the city spend over £14 billion a year delivering their services. The tool includes a procurement analysis from 22 boroughs and open data from all 32 and the City of London, giving details of frontline and corporate systems, manufacturers and unique suppliers. The aim is to help users see which boroughs are using a particular system, all the systems in use by a specific borough and in which service areas, and to see opportunities for collaboration and shared procurement.

At the time of the launch LOTI director Eddie Copeland commented: “Boroughs will now have much richer information about how their technology compares to their peers’, making it easier to share their knowledge and expertise with each other, and look for areas where they can work together.”

(Main picture credit: iStockphoto/ipopba)

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This story is an excerpt from UKAuthority's latest report. With support from AWS, we have been exploring the impact of the Local Digital Declaration on the front line - Download ‘Fixing the Plumbing: Principles of the Local Digital Declaration in action (PDF)

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