Better data sharing to support Scottish Local Authorities

26th July 2021

Emily Douglin, Civica’s MD for Regulatory Services, discusses the challenges of data and how better sharing will support Scottish Local Authorities

Data levels have grown at exponential levels across the globe. According to Statista, the world will create 180 zettabytes (or a trillion gigabytes) of data by 2025.

In 2020, the amount of data created and replicated reached a new high. The growth was higher than previously expected, caused by the increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic as more people worked and learned from home and used more home entertainment.

As the volume of data grows every second, it’s becoming harder to fully understand and drive meaningful insight from it.

The Scottish Local Government during COVID-19 report is very insightful and summarises the software and data sharing challenges experienced by local government in the past decade. One unexpected outcome of the pandemic is digital transformation accelerating to the top of the agenda.

Dr Justin Gangneux and Dr Simon Joss have dug deep into the opinions of local government officers. They have both drawn out the current impact of the pandemic on the perception of data, how it’s currently handled and its limitations, and the potential for change in the future too.

As a former local authority officer, I think it’s safe to say that there’s always too much to do, so finding time to reflect on practices is hard. Coupled with the need to wade through ‘organisational complexity and the siloed nature of local authorities’, this means even understanding what could be truly transformational for services is also close to impossible. It has taken a catalyst of biblical proportions to awaken the world to the possibilities and benefits of accelerating change. There’s has been a swift increase in understanding that accurate data and connected datasets in the cloud can propel service delivery to new heights.

Without a doubt the pandemic has, as one focus group member said, “Raised the profile of data within the organisation, which is a good thing, and therefore the capabilities of the team.” This growing momentum for data sharing to improve Scotland needs to continue. By analysing and using data, Scottish local authorities are better positioned to offer the most appropriate support and intervention activities. It can drive financial efficiencies, while better insight will also help combat fraud, misuse and ensure services are delivered to those who truly need them.

To achieve that goal, many need to redefine what data is and what it means to their organisation – and I can see this has already started.

Adapting the system for new ways of working was simple and having all our data in one place made working with other authorities much easier during the pandemic. This also allowed us to track our progress and provide weekly reports to our Council Management Team, Police Scotland and NHS Tayside. It’s been a challenging time for our regulatory service team; however, Civica has been a dependable partner throughout and their support is always attentive.”

Kenny Kerr, Regulatory Services Manager, Dundee County Council

A fear of fully understanding data has seen many organisations place its responsibility in the hands of only a few. But this mentality only achieves more silos and prevents authorities from unlocking its full potential. Data needs to be placed in the heart of Scottish policy – driving actionable insight from the centre to every part it connects with.