Better data, better services the role of the public in public sector data
Better Data, Better ServicesThe Role of the Public in Public Sector DataPaul Malyon, Product ManagerGood afternoon everyone. I’m pleased to be here today to talk to you about the role of better datain the provision of services to UK citizens. There are a number of challenges that all of you here willbe experiencing around balancing budgets, dealing with change and understanding yourstakeholders – the citizen.When I was asked to speak to you today I spent a great deal of time thinking about what to say. Ifinally realised that talking about AddressBase, the PSMA and the census would be like preaching tothe converted. As much as I love talking about AddressBase (honest!) I thought it would be nice totalk about something else for a change.So, today, I’m going to talk about the role of the citizen in creating and managing the data used toprovide services back to the citizen. I’ll use an example or two from recent events to highlight thisand then conclude by explaining where all of us get involved.Also, if any of you are on Twitter now, feel free to comment using the HashTag here. If we have timeI’ll run through any results I get to see how the citizens here at Everything Happens Somewherereact to the services they’ll be receiving.Slide 2 - Where we are TodayThe first things I’d like to cover are some of the changes in society and public sector data that havegot us to where we are today.We all know about the PSMA, NLPG and AddressBase. These are great examples of how the publicsector can work together to benefit society. I think a lot of these benefits are still to be seen and Ipersonally expect a great deal of interesting data and tools to come from this in the next couple ofyears. From my own experience, I know that we’re just scratching the surface.In terms of AddressBase, we’re very pleased with how this data is shaping up and we’re supportingthe new files right now. Obviously there are still a few questions about how this all works with PAFlicense fees and I know the OS are working to create more information for you to help with yourdecisions on when or if to migrate.Some of the other fundamental shifts have come not from the Public Sector, but from the public (orin many cases, their most powerful representatives; the media). We all saw the news aboutexpenses in the papers and we all see the regular stories of scandal coming from Freedom ofInformation requests.While this kind of thing can cause a lot of inconvenience and embarrassment, the positive effectscan be huge.For example, look at data.gov.uk. How much of the data (and how many of the requests for newdata) involve the citizen simply wanting to find out what their MP or Council spend their hard earned
tax money on? I personally think that this is a huge positive for everyone. If the citizen can get moreinformation on the political process, they’re much more likely to want to be involved and influencethe processes to benefit wider society. Of course there are some risks with this and it can open upthe democratic process to certain interest groups; but this is nothing new.At least now everyone has the same fair and equal access to the information that matters and withthe explosion in data journalism, you can read about it in the paper every morning.With the current government seemingly keen on a more open agenda, we can probably expect theamount of data to increase. The important thing now is to ensure that this data is in a uniformformat and of a decent quality. No one wants crime stats that don’t get updated every month!If all of this data can be made available openly and ideally in a standard, linked format, theopportunities for the public, industry and public sector to use this to improve services are veryexciting.We’ve already seen some good examples from data.gov.uk and we’re now seeing some localauthorities beginning to combine their PSMA data with other sources to create easier ways to accessservices. The local authority here in Nottingham is a good example.OK, so we’ve identified that data is becoming more widely used and understood. However, how arethe public contributing to the data itself? By this, we don’t just mean the availability of existing datain an Open form.Let’s take some examples from the news this summer. We’ve all seen the news every day on theArab Spring and the massive changes in some of the countries in that region.Data has played a huge role in these events. The use of mobile phones to upload video and tweetsabout the protests to circumvent the government controlled media gave an initial boost to themovements. We can even find evidence in the media of this information being used by NATO to planoperations.Many are even suggesting that the Arab Spring simply wouldn’t have happened without the powerof Social Media. The US Admiral in charge of the NATO operation in Libya, James Stavridis, evenposted that the end had been reached on his Facebook page.
Slide 3 - Social Media – A trusted Source?Closer to home, the riots in London and other cities in the summer were also a fantastic example ofhow social media and crowd sourcing can influence events.I live in Stratford, East London. While we escaped the worst of the riots due to huge numbers ofPolice protecting the Olympic park, new Westfield shopping centre and virtually shutting the towncentre down; it wasn’t hard for me to see what was going on.I was about to head off on holiday so obviously couldn’t sleep. I spent the evening watching BBCNews and tracking events using Twitter. It was pretty simple to search for key words like ‘Riot’,‘London’ and ‘Hackney’.Of all of the stories trending that evening, I was most interested in the false ones. Tigers beingreleased from London Zoo to run amok on Primrose Hill was very popular but quickly proven to befalse. The West Ham Primark apparently burning down was also popular but similarly false. I canactually see the West Ham area from my apartment and certainly didn’t see any smoke rising in thatdirection!However, the debate has been very interesting on whether Social Media was actually a positive ornegative thing during those days. If you ask the two gents jailed for inciting riots that neverhappened on Facebook, you’d get a very different answer from me.I personally think that the use of social media to understand society and influence it is growing bythe day and if managed correctly and paired with useful partner data and applications it could behugely positive.
Slide 4 - The Aftermath in DataA few months down the line we’ve started to see some interesting statistics on those people caughtand sentenced in terms of their ethnicity, age and some other demographic detail like theiremployment status, educational record and in the cases of the juvenile offenders; whether they getfree school meals.I’ve collated some of these stats in the top two images here. You can see that the percentage ofthose out of work was much higher than the national average and that 60% of convicted juvenileshad special educational needs. You can also see that a large percentage of offenders were agedbetween 10 and 39.What does this mean for service providers? Well, it doesn’t take a great leap to think about how youfocus community services to look at helping citizens improve their education, work prospects and soon. Obviously, you can also look at other crime prevention measures with the Police. To do thissuccessfully, you need to combine the data like this with address and demographics to gain the rightlevel of insight.One of the things I did that night was to use my iPod to access the Mosaic UK application and searchfor the areas being mentioned on the news to see what the demographic profile was of the localresidents. It certainly threw up some interesting results. The screenshot on this slide gives theMosaic type for the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham. By no means am I suggesting thateveryone involved was from a particular ethnic or social type, simply that this is an example of whatthe data can tell us.So, we’ve taken a look at how social media and government statistics can be used to understandevents before, during and after they happen. We’ve also touched on some of the risks of using‘crowd sourced’ data like Twitter and Facebook and the importance of context on the data that’sproduced.
Slide 5 - Mashing upI’d now like to look at some of the pioneering ways that individuals and organisations could workand are working with Open Source, paid for and social data to influence the services they requestand deliver.Let’s tackle one problem first that could be quite pertinent in the coming months. Snow and Ice.While I was writing this presentation I was looking around at some of the apps that had beencreated from the data on data.gov.uk. I found some really good ones on locations of crime, postboxes, schools and even some that allowed me to find public conveniences in the UK. However, wewon’t get bogged down in these examples.Despite a couple of requests, there is no single data source listing which roads are gritted or likely tobe gritted. One local authority that has released some data on this is Sunderland. If we had this datafor all of the authorities, we could build something quite easily. It’s almost like using a recipe – butwithout the need for an overpaid chef.
Slide 6 - A Recipe for SuccessFirstly, take some open mapping data from the OS OpenSpace site, I favour OS Street View here.Next, we take some gritting data from data.gov.uk that lists which streets are to be gritted, theirpriority and of course their location. We could possibly add in some data here from the NationalStreet Gazetteer or AddressBase.Next, we pop in a simple address search or live location search for smartphones. You could even addsome route mapping to allow users to map their route to work using the best roads!Finally, we add a pinch of social media to allow users to Tweet the condition of the road torecommend routes, request more grit or warn others of ice. They’ll obviously not do this whiledriving though! You could put an option to disable the feedback while the phone is in motion..Leave to simmer until tender and you now have a simple way for your citizens to not only get theservices they need during cold weather, but also to help you deliver those services and help preventfurther costs for you in terms of a potential fall in accidents and road closures.All of this from PSMA, Open and Social data!So that’s one example. However, this only touches on the implication of crowd sourcing and directfeedback for your service delivery. How else can the citizen help?
Slide 7 - Citizen InvolvementWe’ve seen some interesting developments in terms of reporting requirements for services such asthe ‘Fill that Hole’ website and app and now some extended applications of this such as Fix MyStreet put together by MySociety.org.Think about it, if you didn’t have to dedicate an area of your website to reporting broken streetlights and then process all of this as well as employing people to regularly check these too; wouldn’tit save you time and money?Thinking about how the citizen wants to interact with you, they may find it easier to use theirsmartphone app to take a geotagged picture of a problem which is automatically sent to yourrelevant department than wait until they get home, turn on their PC and then head to your websiteto fill in the form. In many cases, they’d simply not bother to do this on their PC as it’s probably notas easy as a smartphone app.We’re all busy people and a lot of us want to help make our streets better. We simply need to makeit as quick and intuitive as possible for citizens to help save government (and thus themselves) sometime and money.I’d urge all of you from local authorities to contact Fix My Street to see how you can integrate it intoyour processes if you haven’t already.On the other side of the coin, there are also applications like Numberhood that can be used bycitizen groups to find out the information they need about their local area in terms of employment,economy and so on to better challenge the services they receive. If a local group can see that theunemployment is high amongst certain ages, they can request the relevant service to change thisand get more involved in making the improvements themselves. I’m sure certain parties would callthis the big society in action!So those are some ways for citizens to create better data for better services and use existing data toaccess those services. We’ve also looked at combining existing data to create better services.
Slide 8 - Capturing more Data for Better ServicesNow, how do we use the data that people create without realising it to enhance public services? Thiscould be termed as ‘data exhaust’ as it’s not the key reason for the process that creates that data inthe first place.Think about this example, whenever someone uses a council website to access information orservices, what are they leaving behind?Obviously, you can see which pages they visit to find the service or information they need. This isvery simple web analytics. What becomes interesting is looking at the background of the requestsand the people making those requests.Can anyone spot the obvious difference here between the two home page logins for my localborough in Newham?(Click)If you add a Facebook login to your website, you could potentially capture more about your citizens.Who are they? Where do they live? How old are they? Are their friends interested in what they’redoing? By looking at their profile information, you could also see if they’re likely to be interested inparticular parts of your site and services for their personal or business use.Take me for example; just from my profile you can see who I am, where I live, where I work, where Istudied, whether I’m in a relationship or not, when my Birthday is (so you can send me a card) andthe kind of things I get up to and who I spend my time with.By capturing simple information like this, you can tackle channel shift and find innovative new waysto deliver information and services as well as gathering better insights into your citizens.Let’s look at another theoretical example to put this into context.
Slide 9 - Social Networking for Contact DataIf a local authority added a Facebook or Twitter login to their page, a citizen could log in with asimple click. From here, the need to capture a Name, e-mail, mobile and address every time they fillin a form could be reduced. It would also save them having to remember yet another password!With some simple regular cleansing, any address taken from the Facebook login could be verifiedand corrected where necessary.From here, the citizen can link all of their activities into one single identity to allow them to keeptrack of things easily. The local authority will get some great advantages here:Firstly, they will get extra data on their citizen in the form of a working email address, mobilenumber and possibly some data on their job. This can all help verify their identity if they apply forassistance or when they go to pay their council tax.The local authority can begin to understand which services are the most important to differentdemographics through the use of the Facebook link and other tools such as users ‘Liking’ the page.For example, I need to find my local health centre. Once I get to the right page on the local authoritysite, I ‘like it’ as it was easy to get to and tells me what I need to know. You now know that peoplelike me want information on GPs.If I log in using Facebook, fill in the form and then Like the page; you not only get the details youneed but you can begin to understand what kind of people are currently living or moving into yourregion, what they need from you and from tracking the other pages they visit on your site; you canrecommend particular pages, information and forms to similar people who log in another time.The local authority get extra data and intelligence, the user gets a better experience and future usersbenefit from this by being able to get to what they need more quickly. You can easily visualise this asa personalised homepage depending on your demographic profile from Facebook and similar usersactivities.Look at my mock up on this slide. Instead of filling in the form to register, I can simply click to log inand fill in all the fields you want automatically. If you want to validate these using software solutionsthen that’s great.
Slide 10 - Real Time Reporting - BirminghamA fantastic example of this in action is the Birmingham City Council Civic Dashboard Alpha. Thissimple site captures all of the requests made by the public in the course of each day and plots themon a map to help users visualise the numbers of requests for particular services and where thoserequests are coming from at certain times of day. It even shows how these requests are received.This is all Open source and makes use of datasets like CodePoint Open and then makes all of theinformation available to others in CSV or JSON format. While this is a pilot, it really shows howsimple it is to combine almost real time data with common reference files to create something trulyuseful for local authorities and the public.Think about the impact of this kind of information on your service provision. Which departmentalcall centres should you ensure are fully staffed at certain times? Where should you put servicecentres in your region? What kind of services are requested by text and email versus face to face?How do you optimise the information on your website to cut the number of enquiries and savecosts?This is hugely impressive. If you added in things like Twitter key word searches and somedemographics, the usefulness of this kind of service could grow exponentially. I’m sure at the backend of this service, Birmingham are using some very good address capture software too.
Slide 11 - Using Twitter to Increase InvolvementBefore I move on, I just wanted to mention a couple of interesting uses of Twitter to enhanceservices. Walsall and Norfolk councils have both used Twitter to promote their services via hash tagslike #NCCourday.By offering this visibility of your staff and services, you are going to get some valuable feedback fromcitizens on what matters to them. With the aim to move more and more services online, this focuson social media and engaging demographic groups who are traditionally less interested ingovernment will bring in some great benefits in the coming years.Slide 12 - Combining everything & everyoneI know I’ve spent a great deal of time talking about online data which may seem strange at an eventfocussed on address gazetteers. However, I don’t see the two things being that separate as wegathered from the Birmingham example.Of course, we can’t just focus on people using the web. Channel shift does represent the end gamebut we still need to think about those people who use face to face and phone based conversationsto access services. What data do we have on them today and what else could we get to help usprovide better services?Looking at the Birmingham example again, we can see that recording the types of requests andwhere they come from is pretty easy. By using files like AddressBase, CodePoint Open and some kindof demographic file like Mosaic; you get to know about the kinds of services that are needed incertain areas and by certain types of people.This means that, for example, you can quickly see that primary education is likely to be needed in anarea as lots of young professionals moved in a couple of years ago and are now having their firstchild. Or you can see that the demographic on a 1970s estate means that more elderly care serviceslike meals on wheels could be needed there soon.I guess my conclusion here is that there is a huge potential to improve services using better data.The most important things you can do today are to start looking at AddressBase, create a singlecustomer view and ensure you use the latest suppression data to identify movers or the deceased.By getting your address-centric contact data right, you can then begin to lay new data sources overthe top.These could be existing open data sources or those available via the PSMA. You could also look atusing social network links to improve access to your services and actually understand what’s neededby who, where and when by combining all of the channels you use to gather, validate andunderstand data.
Some examples already exist. However, I personally believe that local organisations need to thinkless locally. Look at the recent alpha.gov.uk experiment.By bringing all services into one portal, it makes it much easier to access what citizens need and alsounderstand the results in a much more useful way. Imagine if all local authorities used this portal asthe start of the citizen journey to the things they needed.The future looks really exciting but we mustn’t forget what we’ve been working hard on over the last20 years. Addresses and locations will always be important tools. We now just have a few morescrewdrivers and wrenches to play with.I hope this has given you an idea of what’s going on around the Country and how those of us in theindustry are thinking. You probably didn’t expect someone from QAS to talk so little aboutPostcodes, but I can promise you that we’re thinking about more than those when it comes to bettercontact data for better citizen services.Thank you.