Posted on August 11, 2016 by staff

Local government urged to share its data with the public


A senior council chief has called on local government to get its data “out there into communities”.

Alison McKenzie-Folan is the deputy chief executive of Wigan Council, which has been a big supporter of the use of technology.

“I think the local government has a real part to play in local data,” she said.

“We need to get our data out there into communities, stop sitting on our data, be less risk averse, and start using our data, it’s really powerful.

“We’ve got a part to play in terms of efficiency savings and a much bigger part to play in terms of supporting people and lives.”

Two years ago the local authority set up a Digital Leadership Taskforce to bring together all the sectors like education; business; and health to see how technology can improve outcomes.

McKenzie-Folan said the council’s approach was evidence-based.

“We had 44,000 adults in Wigan with no access to the internet, those who are predominantly from the social housing sector, have the most transactions with government so we had to think about how do we engage with those people,” she said.

“8,000 children did not have regular access to the internet at home so there was evidence there that we really need to do something about it.”

The deputy chief executive spoke at a recent digital summit called by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and said a lot of the borough’s businesses didn’t have an ecommerce platform so the council employed a digital growth advisor to work with them.

“We’ve done that in partnership with the Growth Hub here in Manchester so it was a dually funded initiative,” she said. “That person is working with 70 businesses, it’s early days, it’s about 10 months in, we’ve already seen five jobs created, about another five in the pipeline.

“We have a large SME sector in Wigan, we knew that two-thirds of those didn’t have an eCommerce offer, a third of those didn’t have a website offer.

“One of the things we rely on is business rates so we need businesses in Wigan and we need them to expand so supporting them through a digital growth advisor we thought was a really, really good investment. Early days but it’s starting to pay off.”