How data visualisation is helping the Greater London Authority meet its objectives
The Greater London Authority (GLA) is a strategic authority with a London-wide role to design a better future for the capital. It supports the work of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly in representing the interests of Londoners.
The GLA was formally established in 2000 and its three main areas of responsibility are: economic development and wealth creation; social development and environmental improvement.
The GLA Intelligence Unit is relatively new and comprises a number of departments that were previously separate but now work together as a single unit. These are: DMAG (data management and analysis group); GLA Economics; Information Services Team (library) and Consultations Team (primary survey, research and opinion data).
The GLA assists a number of organisations with their intelligence gathering. These include: the 33 London Boroughs; the London Fire Brigade; the London Development Agencies; Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police Authority. This means that data is collected and made available at a low level. We interviewed Gareth Piggott, Senior Research and Statistical Analyst, General Statistics Team, to find out how the GLA is using InstantAtlas and what he believes the benefits are.
The GLA started using InstantAtlas to report the Mayoral election results in 2008 but realised there was greater scope for its use. So the GLA decided to use InstantAtlas reports for ward profiles. According to Gareth, this was an improvement on its previous ward profiling not just as far as analysts were concerned but also from the perspective of general public users.
Meeting the need
The GLA Intelligence Unit has now developed a series of InstantAtlas reports that are available from its website. The intention is that these reports help to answer as many questions as they raise. Gareth says that dropping the data into a spreadsheet format and then creating reports is relatively straightforward but collecting the data is the hard part.
However, he says the benefits the GLA gets from the InstantAtlas reports far outweighs the work involved in collecting the data in an easy-to-use format. The data itself is easy to source but is held in a variety of locations. “Some primary care trusts do not have the same level of resource as others and those without much intelligence gathering capability really appreciate the work the GLA does because it can help them enormously,” says Gareth. He also points out that with the financial constraints ahead some organisations may no longer be able to have dedicated staff and the GLA Intelligence Unit could therefore become a useful resource for them.
Making the project work
The GLA Intelligence Unit is using data in ways that adds value to users by giving them access to data sets they would not normally be able to see. For example the Jobseekers Allowance rates it displays are based on far more accurate GLA labour force population data than used in the ONS claimant count rates which use the whole population as the denominator. Other data that is not freely publicly available are the crime rates and Annual Business Inquiry data, which displays employment data by industry, all of which adds a new dimension to the reports.
Over the next few months, the unit is planning to extend the number of datasets it is using. Currently there are 13 in use but the plan is to add others such as the National Insurance Registrations for Overseas Nationals number and the number of businesses in each ward. The latter isn’t widely available because it requires approval from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is another way the unit is adding significant value to the reports.
Gareth Piggott, says: “We are going to be using InstantAtlas more and more. A good example of this is the ongoing project called Focus on London. Rather than having a 200 page report that is produced every year, we will be releasing one chapter per month with interactive mapping on our website. This means we will have a new InstantAtlas report every month.”
Watch the GLA presentation at the 2012 InstantAtlas User Conference
Other InstantAtlas stories and reports that will interest you
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Bristol City Council - Giving Bristol and its neighbourhoods access to local data in a visually compelling and easy-to-understand way
Staffordshire Data Observatory - Giving local strategic partners the data they need to make commissioning decisions in a customisable format
Devon County Council - Using a shared online resource to ensure Devon’s strategic partners make evidence-based decisions using the same data
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