A new study, titled “Smart Devolution,” advocates the creation of a dedicated team of data experts in order to make cities smarter and more productive.
The report by think tank Policy Exchange outlines the ways in which a formal Office of Data Analytics, comprising a number of local authority teams, could make better use of public and private data.
Under recent legislation UK cities will receive further devolved powers, giving mayors the opportunity to create their own data teams. There is a vast range of data available from a variety of sources, such as smartphones, transport infrastructure and payment terminals. Currently, this data is being largely untapped by the UK public sector, but the New York Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA), which sources data from more than 40 departments and agencies, provides a successful example.
Some possible implementations for data analytics by UK local authorities include: supporting business growth, reviewing benefits given to vulnerable families and using data modelling to predict the impact of new legislation and subsequently measure its effectiveness.
“Every locality generates data,” says Mike Flowers, founding director of the New York City MODA team. “You actually have a tremendous untapped resource [the data] that you can look to solve the problems that you’re facing. So I’d tell cities the first step to becoming smarter is to look inward. The answers really are already there.”
Similarly, Simon Dennis, central government director, SAS UK, told the Internet of Business that investing in public sector data analytics could make services more accountable.
“Imagine being able to prove the tabloids are misrepresenting public opinion with hard facts,” he said. “It’s no longer lies, damn lies and statistics – this can be become the era of lies, damn lies OR statistics!”
Looking to the future, the report also states that an Office of Data Analytics would help the UK prepare for the expected increase in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, claiming that “cities are unlikely to be able to make effective use of the exponentially greater amounts of data that can be provided through Internet of Things technologies if they have not first developed the capability to use the data they already have.”