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Data analytics in local government

What are the challenges faced by local authorities in deploying data analytics in public services?

Town hall sign on a building facade
Project lead
Laura Carter

Project background

Public sector organisations have increasingly become interested in using data analytics to help deliver or improve public services. They are increasingly collecting and analysing data as part of their delivery of services. These analytics are used both at an aggregate level, in the form of statistical analysis to better understand factors that affect their populations, and at an individual level, to inform the work done by social workers and other frontline staff.

For example, the public sector has piloted or begun using different forms of analytics to try to identify people with a wide range of characteristics, from people understating their income in tax returns to older people at risk of frailty, and from individuals likely to not pay rent to who to prioritise for social housing.

Local governments are using a range of different data analytics techniques –from matching data from different sources to synthesising data into new outputs such as scores, generating predictions about future service use.

A range of actors, from central and local government to academia, have argued for the benefits of data analytics in local government, including:

  • earlier and more targeted interventions
  • tailored public services for individuals
  • more connected care
  • the ability to forecast and anticipate future requirements;
  • triaging support to those most in need.

Against this promising vision, however, there is emerging evidence of the limitations of data analytics systems with respect to functionality, fairness, legitimacy and public acceptability.

Why we need independent research on local government usage of data analytics

There is a lack of documentation of the day-to-day experiences of staff within local authorities who are deploying and using data analytics tools.   This project will document the opportunities – and challenges – experienced by local authorities.

Our project aims to advance collective understanding of potential challenges related to implementing and deploying data  analytics in the provision of public services, and of local authorities’ needs in this area. It hopes to inform discussions about if and how predictive analytics should be used in ways that work for people and society.

Image credit: KevinAlexanderGeorge

Public-sector use of data & algorithms