NEW research conducted by the University of Glasgow has revealed that data sharing has been crucial to Scottish councils in managing the pandemic.
A report published today, conducted by Urban Big Data at the University of Glasgow shows how Scottish local governments grasped challenges of the pandemic to deliver collaborative and innovative developments using data to aid citizens to fight the pandemic.
Local governments throughout Scotland were at the forefront of the response to the coronavirus crisis.
Local councils delivered essential services to communities and providing support to local businesses along with providing test and trace as well as monitoring local outbreaks.
The pandemic placed a great demand on councils which forced them to quickly adapt.
The Urban Big Data Centre researchers carried out an in-depth analysis of data engagements between autumn 2020 and Spring 2021.
Dr Justine Gangneux, a research associate at the Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow said: “What is striking is just how quickly local authorities responded to the COVID-19 crisis by making use of data to inform decision-making and provide essential services to communities. So, data was central to the local government’s handling of the pandemic on the ground.
“At the same time, local authorities encountered several data challenges along the way, for example how to deal with patchy data quality, and how to share data across organisations without significant prior sharing practice.
“The crisis has also had a positive effect: it turned out to be a catalyst for innovation, for example by prompting local authorities to form new partnerships and networks for data sharing in a short period of time.”
The researchers surveyed 31 of the 32 local authorities in Scotland as well as focus groups including NHS Scotland, Police Scotland, the Scottish Government and some voluntary organisations.
The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents said there was an increase in internal data sharing during the pandemic.
89 per cent of respondents found internal public sector data during the early stages of the pandemic to be ‘very important’.
Simon Joss, Professor of Urban Futures at the University of Glasgow, said: “Our research highlights the need, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, for better data sharing and collaboration between local government and the third (voluntary) sector, to optimise the value of data to communities and citizens.
“Surprisingly, compared to traditional administrative data generated by public sector organisations, so-called ‘smart’ or ‘novel’ data (such as social media, and Internet of Things, data) was not found to be in great demand. However, participants saw it play a more important role in the future.”
A significant aspect of the increase in data use was the significant surge in data sharing across the public sector, specifically between local authorities and the NHS.
The experience of the pandemic revealed crucial lessons for future data engagement for both local governments and the Scottish Government in the upcoming digital world.