Five ways councils can use data to improve services

Written by Andy Barrow on 19 February 2019 in Opinion
Opinion

Local authorities could benefit from the use of analytics and AI, according to Andy Barrow of ANS Group

From social care for vulnerable children, to council tax collection and planning applications, and even waste collection – local authorities process and store enormous amounts of valuable data.

However, this data is usually jumbled, hard to analyse and typically personal and sensitive, meaning that councils can often struggle to gain beneficial insight amongst the noise. 

This is where technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning come in, and can help to shed light on data sets that councils couldn’t digest before. 

Running a local authority requires implementing careful and agile data-management processes. In a world before digital advancements, processing and running key services would have taken up a significant amount of resources for local councils. 

However, we are lucky enough to now live in a world now where new technologies have been developed to make processing both small and large data sets much easier – allowing services to be more targeted and effective.

The potential for technology to transform the services local councils provide is significant, and below are just some of the ways data analytics can be applied in the sector.
 

Predictive analysis
Data analytics can offer significant insight for local councils when it comes to predicting eventualities, including being able to identify problem areas and adjust services to avert problems and unexpected costs later down the line. 


Smart cities
Smart cities are cropping up across the UK, upheld by connected sensors, internet of things devices and data. 

Armed with these tools, councils are beginning to improve traffic management, tracking air pollution and even making the use of street lights more efficient. Local authorities can also utilise data from citizens to understand how they can better use their resources to improve the way people navigate and experience places.
 

Data warehousing
Whilst low-level data can be used to improve services within a specific area, data warehousing is one way in which a council can combine data sets from across local government and the wider local public sector to provide deeper population-level analysis. 

In doing so, frontline professionals can see a much more comprehensive picture of people receiving services, which could then help to inform how services can be tailored the user’s needs.
 

Open data
Using open data portals and analytics hubs can be an incredibly useful tool for councils looking to be more transparent and increase engagement with their communities. 

Communities such as developers, entrepreneurs and innovators can benefit from these by tapping into valuable data to create businesses, products and services. Alongside finding solutions for public or social problems, this is an important source of local economic growth.
 

Geospatial analytics
This is one of the most established and regularly applied areas of data analytics in local authorities. By using geospatial data, councils can optimise day-to-day services such as waste collection routes, as well as reducing any inefficiencies and duplication of transactional services.



But for all of these analytics solutions to work, councils need to implement the right platforms – whether it is through public, private or hybrid cloud infrastructure. Connectivity is essential and without it, councils will be left behind.

The ultimate aim for any council should be to ensure that residents across the authority are being served in the most optimised, efficient and innovative manner. Gone are the days of endless reams of paperwork and rifling through reams of incomprehensible data. 

Technology can now allow councils to focus on what matters the most – which is bettering the lives of residents. 

About the author

Andy Barrow is chief technology officer of ANS Group

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