What's in this podcast?

Jason is joined by Pye Nyunt, Head of Innovation at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. It’s a local authority that services about 213,000 people in the East London region.   

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One Big Message 

Preparation and agility is key. Make sure you have the correct data systems in place to facilitate quick decision making before you encounter problems – and are not forced to scramble for solutions.    

[02:04] A look into Pye’s role within the local government and how data helps the community on a day-to-day basis 

[10:40] How Pye’s team needs to cater for the vision of the executives and the current political councillors in office 

[15:10] How data is shared and used across different councils  

[18:43] Practical applications of using data during the pandemic and how Pye’s team gathered critical data in under 7 hours 

[27:01] The Social Progress Index and the way in which data plays an important role in maintaining the index 

[32:00] The role of service-based designers and advisors in the council 

[35:09] The evolution of data in the council since Pye started in his role 3 years ago 


Using data in local government  

For local governments that work closely with so many different people on a daily basis, data is often part of the solution. Data is used in council areas to improve the outcomes governed by current legislation and policies.  

Being able to collect, manage and use data to help serve people is common practice in most corporations. For councils however, feedback and changes need to be done fast. Because of this, it is critical to keep a ‘golden thread’ of data that is constantly updated with any rapid developments.  

A prime example of the agility required of a local government data team was the pandemic. From the announcement of lockdown, many local governments had to gather as much data and information as possible about how it would affect the local populations. They then analysed the data to pinpoint who was most at risk for appropriate resource allocation.  


Taking charge with local matters 

Because local governments are on the forefront of communication with civilians, it is important that they are proactive in gathering information to serve their local population.  

For example, when the pandemic broke and a lockdown was imminent, local governments didn’t have the luxury of time to wait around for data from the federal government.  

As lockdown began, the onus was placed on local councils to gather data about the most vulnerable in society so they could allocate resources to where it was needed most. This involved local council representatives sitting down with local organisations such as the local food bank, churches, mosques and other volunteer organisations who work closely with the most vulnerable in society.  


Sharing ideas with other council areas 

There are many instances where sharing geographic-specific data across council areas is beneficial. One of the best examples is in healthcare where it is not uncommon for a resident of one council area to attend a hospital or medical clinic in another council area.  

Pre-pandemic there was a big focus on having integrated data sets to improve quality of care across multiple council areas and the clinical boards. Because of this, when the pandemic hit there was already infrastructure in place to help councils and clinical centers communicate and gather data more efficiently to make better informed decisions.  

This integrated data approach across different geographical areas can also be translated into other areas such as policing, civil infrastructure such as roads, social services and other emergency services.  


Using data to help citizens  

Local councils realise that there are different solutions needed for different areas of need. Often in the data industry there is an emphasis placed on quantitative analysis. However, when you are working with people, qualitative data is just as important to help allocate resources.  

In council data teams, there are often service-based designers who remain active in the community to gather information. These service-based designers work in the data and innovation team however their area of expertise is not data-focused such as behavioural scientists. They offer insight into interpreting data and help to provide solutions backed by their specialised expertise.  

When deciding what resources to allocate to certain areas such as the local library or child center, it is a culmination of both qualitative and quantitative data that drives decisions.  


To summarise 

Data has become a fundamental decision making tool in so many aspects of our lives, whether we realise it or not. It helps the private and public sectors to make better, more informed decisions to serve clients and the community. In times of crisis such as the pandemic, having the correct data infrastructure in place allows for rapid collaboration so it always pays to be prepared.  

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