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How can we accelerate public sector data innovation?

Jonathan Hale
Data Director, Valtech

februari 17, 2023

The way public sector organisations use data is vital to creating better digital services, delivering greater efficiencies, and seizing new opportunities. But how can data help them respond to complex, evolving challenges?

Digital transformation has helped to make public sector services more efficient, moving processes online, shortening lead times and capturing data about transactions. The development of the National Data Strategy shows that there is a desire to maximise the value data captured, using it to create insight and inform action and guide policy decisions. It should help organisations “innovate, experiment and drive a new era of growth”.

Unlocking the power of data

The strategy offers a framework and support for public sector organisations to unlock the power of data. However, we can’t manage complex scenarios with inadequate data and tools that aren’t fit for purpose. Excel isn’t adequate for managing and learning from sophisticated, dynamic, multi-dimensional data. We should also ensure those analysing data can spend their time exploring insights rather than tackling basic, manual cleansing and processing tasks.

Digital services going beyond transactions

Data is what powers step-changes in the value, efficiency and effectiveness of digital services. To identify opportunities, increase insight and power innovation, product owners and stakeholders need to be able to interpret more data from more sources and with more dimensions. The way the public sector uses data must evolve beyond reporting on transactions and providing a ‘rear view mirror’ perspective. If not, we risk making decisions based on partial or incorrect information.

Richer, more powerful data

We need to collect, analyse and use data in richer, more timely ways if we want to better understand situations, respond to needs and anticipate requirements. Geospatial data is an excellent example, and Valtech is helping public sector organisations to make use of it. For example, in environments such as promoting electric vehicles, we go beyond merely capturing basic operational data and reporting on the usage of eScooters, we help create understanding and gain meaning from the data. Techniques like appending geospatial information (data with a geographic component), helps to make the data more useful. We can aggregate journeys and look for patterns or even analyse the average speed of eScooters in specific locations. For example, are they being driven at speed around pedestrianised areas like precincts or shopping centres? We can look at actual needs and use data to improve the service and policy.

The benefits of open data

Leveraging value from open data leads to better services. It lets delivery teams build timelier, more personalised and relevant services for users of all types. APIs and data catalogues can also help make data sources accessible to other teams, departments and organisations. A data catalogue informs others in the community about available data sets, including metadata describing its context, who created it, when it was created and updated, the size of the data set, and how to access it.

The more we cross-reference and enrich data, the more it can be used to solve unforeseen problems and deliver additional benefits over and above core requirements. For example, when existing systems for managing permits were developed, the Civil Aviation Authority couldn’t have foreseen the dramatic increase in urban air traffic due to drones. To scale up the management of airspace, rich data is vital. It means they can go beyond managing applications for permits to using geospatial data to manage airspace proactively.

How can we make the transition

Using richer, more free-flowing data requires additional skills, tools and methodologies. Data democratisation creates an equitable and transparent market for data, so it can be shared and leveraged fairly and securely. Putting data into the public domain like this can revolutionise how the world works, supporting more data-driven decisions and data-led innovation.

There are some technical steps to take – such as adopting data standards and cataloguing sources, so the data community understand them. However, committing to making data available whenever possible is equally important. We must mandate an ‘open data’ mindset and make it the default approach. This sets the tone across public sector organisations and the public sector more widely, creating a culture that supports innovation and experimentation with data.

Bringing all kinds of data sets together in a data catalogue helps in three fundamental ways.

  • It helps new initiatives to establish whether what they’re attempting has already been done. Does it already exist, or has something similar been created?
  • It provides inspiration for what’s possible. Teams can learn what’s been done in other organisations and find data sets they didn’t already know about.
  • Crucially, we can establish a stronger evidence-based business case for change and use a richer ongoing stream to data to underpin digital service design and ongoing continuous improvement.

This approach is something that Valtech is helping public sector organisations bring to fruition. We are seeing an increasing focus on outcomes and improvements for everyone involved – from end-users to departments and third-party organisations. Maintaining the focus on using digital services to make data available, enrich it and use it to gain actionable insights will continue to improve services and lives.

If you’d like to discuss how to put data at the heart of improving digital services and insights, arrange a discovery call today.


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