How the London Borough of Newham is supporting evidence-based policy-making and decision-making through data presentation & visualisation
Newham Info is the name given to the London Borough of Newham’s information and intelligence hub. The idea started out as a data and statistics hub with an associated website which came online in late 2003. However, the vision was to develop an observatory and create a resource where users could find data from a wide range of sources and covering a wealth of issues to support evidence-based policy-making across the public sector in the borough.
Stephen Croney is Information Manager, Improvement and Performance Service in Policy, Partnerships and Communicationsat the London Borough of Newham. He joined the council in 2009 with responsibility for the borough’s GIS systems and turning the existing data store into an observatory that focused more on making information easier to access and use, ‘Telling the Newham Story’. “The idea was to have a site that could be used by anyone to improve decision-making, support partnership working and better prepare the borough, its partners and stakeholders for the future,” he says.
A team of two was tasked with collecting and checking data sets from partner organisations. This included amongst others health, crime, housing and demographic data. Yousaf Hassan, Information Systems Officer, was part of this team and says that having looked at a number of data presentation solutions, they found InstantAtlas and decided that InstantAtlas Server would be most appropriate. They also decided to use OCSI Data Packs alongside popular datasets such as ONS Mid-year estimates and GLA's Population Projections.
Meeting the need
According to Yousaf, the website currently has around 500 hits a month and the bounce rates have really dropped. “We’ve made the home page more interesting and have found that more people stay on the site once they are there,” says Yousaf. He also believes that the site is set up for easy access. “The fact that we have brought in OCSI Data packs means we can put the data into specific themes this helps us meet our objectives which is to give people access to information as quickly and as easily as possible.”
On the home page users are taken directly to IA profiles having decided which theme they are interested in. News items have also been created so that users can be kept up-to-date with what’s new on the site.
Stephen says that the site is starting to meet expectations and the depth of resource is growing month by month. “We have been able to use the resources section of InstantAtlas to upload tables so that users can create their own age bands,” he says. In addition the site now has two dedicated areas for the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and for the Local Economic Assessment. Both links take you to a section with breaks the documents down into individual chapters.
“We still get ad hoc request for data but the majority we can direct to Newham Info,” says Stephen.
Watch the NewhamInfo presentation at the InstantAtlas 2012 User Conference - View on YouTube or the InstantAtlas Streaming Video Server
Additional option - Listen to the TalkLIS interview with Stephen Croney and Julian Tyndale Biscoe
Since the bulk of the data comes via the OCSI Data packs, Stephen says they can now focus more effort on what data is held within the organisation and its partners. “It means we can go out and ask people what sort of information they would like to see. Creating a place where users across the authority can access council data easily and presented to them in a simple to use and understand way”.
“We’ve done this with school census. This data has been broken down by age, gender, language and date allowing for time series analysis which is very powerful and it’s a good example of where we have been able to provide the data that people want,” says Stephen.
Stephen is also intending to integrate existing system. This will include the councils CRM system and its ArcGIS system.
“The other thing we would like to do is improve links from Newham Info with other pages across the council’s website. This is starting to happen through links on members pages which directs them straight to ward level profiles.”
“We have a facility on the council’s website called ‘My Neighbourhood’ which includes a property summary page, information about bin collections, schools and so on. We would like to include our demographic ward-level data here as well.”
Stephen says that InstantAtlas has been a useful tool in the development of Newham Info and the fact that they buy the annual support package has paid dividends. “The support is very useful and we especially like the ability to pass on feature requests and feedback on development.”
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