Socitm Spring 2017: Councils urged to collaborate on data analytics

Written by Rebecca Hill on 28 April 2017 in News
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Conference told that local authorities should prepare for one day having to explain to the public how algorithms have been used to make decisions 

Councils should work together to make common standards on data - Photo credit: TJ

Councils should standardise their approaches to data and work together to tackle challenges that will have a universal impact across the sector, a conference has heard.

Participants at the spring conference of the IT professionals association Socitm, held yesterday (27 April) in London, heard from a range of local government digital proponents on the broad topics of simplifying, standardising and sharing services.

Andrew Collinge, assistant director at the Greater London Authority, and one of the leaders on the London Office of Data Analytics project, emphasised the importance of taking a collaborative approach to data.


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The LODA pilot is looking at a way to use the various datasets that authorities in the capital hold to train computer systems to predict buildings that are likely to be houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs), to allow authorities to carry out more targeted investigations.

Collinge said that, although there had initially been 15 authorities that were “mustard keen” to get involved, when it came down to it, there were only six that had good enough quality data. This, he said, showed that there was still work to be done.

The team will share data protocols and tools so that others can use them, including data sharing agreements, privacy impact assessments and the algorithm that has been used.

He added that increased use of machine learning in government would require good standards and that staff have a broad understanding of the systems, especially if they are eventually used by the council to make decisions.

“That moment might actually be coming to an authority near you – you might have to explain to people in the future: ‘This algorithm is fair; it’s delivered the right outcomes’,” he said. “It’s something we need to develop understanding about.”

Such issues will be universal in their impact, he said, and urged councils to work together to tackle such common challenges.

 “There are issues we need to share – at all levels,” said Collinge. “For example, we have the General Data Protection Regulation, which I think at the moment is probably being considered, not just one time over, but many times over.”

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