visualize | communicate | ENGAGE
Somerset Intelligence aims to gather and use intelligence effectively to support policy-making and improve the quality of life for people living in the county of Somerset. The Somerset Intelligence Partnership (SIP) involves most public sector organisations within the county and is co-ordinated by the Customer Insight team at Somerset County Council – a strategic partner. The Somerset Intelligence website is a public portal to INFORM Somerset. It acts as a first point of access for people and organisations looking for data, information and research about Somerset at a range of geographical levels.
We spoke to Mike Smith, information manager with the Insight team. He says that one of the issues identified early on was that individual partner organisations each had their own data sets but there was little coordination in terms of bringing them together. A team was set up to collate data sets and disseminate them which is now being done via a microsite called INFORM Somerset. This provides an overview of Somerset based on a range of themes including health and wellbeing and crime and community safety.
Once the small team was recruited, it started to look at how other organisations were disseminating data and it was quickly recognised that a data visualisation package was needed. After going out to tender, InstantAtlas was selected as the preferred provider and the decision was taken to have a hosted solution.
Meeting the need
The site went live on the 1st April 2011 and the indicators in each theme are presented in easy-to-use, interactive maps and tables that can either be viewed, printed off and/or downloaded. Users can look at how an indicator varies by area or alternatively see a collection of indicators within a particular area (i.e in a profile).
As the project has progressed other data sets from partner organisations have been made available which Mike says is helping the team present more in-depth intelligence for each theme. “Two main projects have involved community profiling because the most often-asked question is what sort of people live in different parts of Somerset,” he says.
“We have endeavoured to spread the word about INFORM and the feedback has been very encouraging. It has been demonstrated not only to local government officers responsible for data, strategy and commissioning services but also elected members”. According to Mike, INFORM is now playing an important part in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) alongside the Somerset Intelligence website. “We have moved away from the need to have lots of numbers presented in tables,” says Mike. “Our users now prefer reading summary reports with links to the maps and data on INFORM”.
The 2011 Census was particularly well-suited to a data presentation approach, and Mike feels that this also applies to monitoring population changes at local geographies. “InstantAtlas was a vital tool for getting the 2011 Census data out there,” says Mike, “and it is a great way of engaging people in understanding the differences between different parts of Somerset, so vital in identifying priorities for commissioning or funding bids”.