Nesta’s Offices of Data Analytics (ODA) programme aims to help cities and regions join up, analyse and act upon data sourced from multiple local authorities and public sector bodies to reform public services.
Our hypothesis is that the scale of the financial challenges facing the public sector is such that it’s not sufficient for individual organisations merely to become as efficient as they can. Rather, they need to find ways to collaborate to address issues at a larger scale. The aim of ODAs is to marshal data to that end. Specifically, ODAs can:
Enable smarter decisions on scaling shared services. Public sector data often resembles a jigsaw: everyone has their piece of the puzzle, but no one can see the whole picture. The ODA methodology pieces together disparate datasets so it’s possible to see how problems, opportunities and demand transcend geographic boundaries and intelligently design shared services to respond.
Target resources at cases of greatest need / risk / importance. By overlaying different datasets on a map, or creating an algorithm to prioritise cases, data can help focus efforts where they are needed most. This contrasts with less effective, but common public service practice such as treating cases chronologically.
Predict future instances of a problem to enable prevention or early intervention. By modelling past cases and learning about the factors that correlate with higher risk, data can help spot future problems at an earlier stage when they are cheaper and simpler to resolve.
9 principles of data analytics
Of course, data analytics is no cure-all; it cannot address every issue. So how do you work out where it has something to contribute? Our work suggests answering that question requires clear thinking on nine principles under three headings: 1) the problem you wish to address; 2) the new action you want to enable; and 3) the data relating to that issue. For a public sector problem to be tackled with data, you need to:
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