On Wednesday 13th October, I had the opportunity to attend the UK Authority Data4Good event with Dionne Lowndes (Chief Digital and Technology Officer) from Southwark Council. Dionne discussed the important role that data played in how they responded to COVID-19, how Southwark Council are ready to reset post-COVID-19 but seize upon some of the positive momentum across the council around data in the longer term, and finally the importance of partnerships across the public sector to ensure high-quality services.
Hitachi Solutions reflected on what we have seen over the last 18 months with our Public Sector customers and an insight into some of the conversations we have been having. It is clear that during COVID-19, all Public Sector organisations were asked to take on new roles and responsibilities in an attempt to keep constituents safe. We believe that is it is unlikely those roles and responsibilities are going to go away in a “post-COVID-19 world”, but instead evolve and develop into ‘new’ business as usual activities (BAU).
Over the last 18 months, society has taken a new interest in data, and that is evident by the level of engagement and fascination we saw from a large section of the public around the latest statistics and figures in relation to the pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic, millions across the country tuned in at 5pm to listen to Chris Witty and his team go through those numbers. Even today there are still approximately 300,000 users checking the Public Health England website every day at 4pm to get their regular consumption of the latest numbers. Is there a chance that some of those behaviours and that interest will develop into citizens expecting they can get similar sort of insight across other areas moving forward?
The COVID-19 roles and responsibilities that Public Sector organisations adopted are likely to evolve into business as usual and UK society is becoming more data literate there is a perfect storm brewing. What if citizens expect that they can access similar levels of insight across all Public Sector services they access on a regular basis? For example, being able to go onto a local authority’s website and, based on your postcode, understand the latest around environmental pollution and air quality on your street.
In consequence, there is a growing expectation for Public Sector organisations to be able to provide a level of insight across the services they offer at the citizen’s convenience.
The good news is that a lot of the behaviours required to offer that level of insight have been established during the pandemic, and the next objective is understanding how those behaviours can be formalised into strategies to transform services moving forward.
In response to dealing with the perfect storm, and meeting the growing expectations among citizens, many Public Sector organisations are beginning to review their digital strategies and the core role a central data capability will adopt. A central data capability typically refers to the concept of standing up an enterprise cloud platform that enables Public Sector organisations to transform existing reporting processes and analytics, while being scalable to support longer-term ambitions such as the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Twins.
When supporting these organisations with creating an internal data capability, we are witnessing that a phased-agile approach is the most successful. The idea is to start small and realise benefits as soon as possible, rather than embroiling resources in extensive waterfall programmes that will only deliver benefits in 6-to-18-months from project kick-off. The most successful creation of a central data capability has also involved the CIO bringing along service areas, and ensuring they buy-in to the vision and the role that data can play in transforming services.
By 2023 it is expected that the Building Safety Bill will be enacted, meaning that local authorities will be responsible for ensuring that all buildings being constructed within their respective regions are compliant with that law, in an attempt to prevent another Grenfell tragedy. This will require a local authority to bring together a disparate set of data sources to create a 360-degree view of a building, using data across housing, maintenance, finance and other systems to effectively measure compliance. A central data capability enables a local authority to achieve compliance and upgrade building safety for their citizens.
In the United Kingdom, there are Integrated Care Systems (ICS) which are an alliance of Public Sector organisations (local authorities, National Health Service (NHS) Trusts etc.) within a region that has a responsibility to meet health and care needs across a region. A regional data capability pulling in data across those organisations could create a 360-degree view of a citizen record that provides the ICS with insight to proactively offer services. For example, using the data to intervene with social care services offered by a local authority early on, may prevent an individual from occupying an NHS bed due to the early intervention. A regional data capability may also provide options for the NHS to work at a regional level to get the insight they need to effectively plan how they are going to address the significant patient backlog because of the pandemic.
Public sector organisations stepped up to their new roles and responsibilities to manage COVID-19 and there is now an opportunity to build on those behaviours moving forward to transform public services by leveraging data.
If you missed out on the webinar at UK Authority's Innovation and Data4Good, you can watch the session by following the link below.