Two tools every council needs: No 2 - for matching and blending data to link service silos

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

I am not in the business of suggesting that Local Authorities need to go shopping for technology solutions. In most cases they already have more than they need. In a past job I was an ‘applications undertaker’ - which is not glamorous work but does save a great deal of money.

In my experience of working on a number of Office of Data Analytics projects - very few councils have tools to automate the matching of people and property data (their master data).

Master data is now carefully managed by private companies - such as pharmaceuticals and retail - to join up their disparate data sets.

The reason both the private and public sector need these tools is because currently their data analysts are spending up to 80% of their time cleaning and matching data between different service data silos (legacy system databases). There are no common reference numbers in place to link information up.

This cleaning and linking is time data analysts should be spending analysing trends and finding new early interventions.

Technology people describe this messy and dirty data as ‘registers’. There is no longer any need for matching and linking to be carried out manually though.

An ethical use of machine learning (artificial intelligence) tools - is to cross reference thousands of records in real time. This is the equivalent of an old-school Rollerdex - and the good news is that the technology does as accurate a job as the human eye in linking data (see more in the Southwark blog post). In addition, the results are periodically carefully tuned by the human eye to make sure that they are safe.

This is the technology behind the Residents index in Camden and the Client Index in Brent. Brent’s has been up and running for 10 years since 2008.

This is not new or bleeding edge technology and there are a wide range of SME providers that can supply the technology for less that £50k. Many also provide a free proof of concept.

If you identify a single council sublet property through this matching (and you almost certainly will) that will pay for the tool outright.

In conjunction with the information sharing gateway tool this is a significant and overlooked way for councils to improve services and save money. They can also use it to confirm the identities of residents - which may help with some of the Universal Credit authentication problems people are experiencing with Verify.

I am indebted to and cursed by Tony Ellis - Chief Information Officer at Buckinghamshire County Council (Previously Brent) for passing on the baton to me to try to get more traction across local government.

Please do ask questions / contact me for further information.