We ask our politicians how much a pint of milk costs because we want to know if they’re in touch - well-informed on the realities of everyday life. At every level of government, we expect decision-makers to have a clear understanding of the situation of their citizens, to know how changes to public services, deployment of limited resources and future planning will affect people before the word ‘go’. To this end, data is the most important resource available to local authorities - and often they aren’t using enough of it.
The National Data Strategy, published nearly one year ago, called for a “strategy that reflects the opportunities and challenges of our new hyper-digital world”. The opportunities are boundless. With fantastic insight into citizens’ lives - how they interact with services, where they need support, their criticisms - councils can create bold, evidenced policy that does the most good for the most people. The challenges are clear. Data science is an imperfect art. Accuracy, quality, bias and security must all be seriously considered if insights are to be reliable and data projects are to succeed.
For councils, data science is the key to understanding best practices and making the right decisions at the right time. For citizens, data science will open up new employment opportunities, better services and help them become more connected to their communities. And for the future, data science will help level up councils across the UK and drive better and better outcomes for everyone.
Across the eight chapters of this report, we explain the practice of data science: from the steps councils need to take to know their data is of the best quality, to ground-breaking tools that use automation to produce never-before-seen insights, to strategy and planning for these considerable developments.
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