The Bucks Data Exchange provided a rare environment to work in a multi-agency partnership, where everyone was invested in collaboration. Framework Digital was delighted to bring Mark Ormerod’s vision (Mark is the Chair of Buckinghamshire VCSE Partnership Board) as a resource to the local community, but what are the benefits and challenges of data sharing for a local community?
Data based inequality
Data points surround our lives — anything from people’s location and their medical details to traffic volumes on streets and weather conditions. The sheer volume and variety are overwhelming, while access is fragmented. The process of collecting, accessing and analysing data is expensive, even though it can provide incredible insight to inform decision-making. The complexity and costs can be vast, meaning the benefits are available only to organisations with significant resources. In effect, data-driven decisions can be reserved only for those with budgets, while organisations with limited resources are left behind, creating inequality and divisions.
Driven by Data
For many organisations, data also provides evidence of impact. It helps to quantify outcomes and show whether desired targets have been met. This can help to secure funding and resources for departments or future projects.
As data can be so valuable, many organisations, commercial, not-for-profit and public services dedicate resources to collecting and analysing it. Usually, this data is guarded. People are fearful about it getting into competitors’ hands. Access to this data could give an advantage to a rival team or even threaten the organisation’s future.
The need to protect data for compliance with GDPR and other standards is also a concern. With sensitive data, such as personal records, this is justified. However, plenty of data could be shared without compromising privacy, as in the case of Bucks Data Exchange.
Why Share Data?
The partners in Bucks Data Exchange recognised that collaboration could bring better outcomes for Buckinghamshire communities. By making high quality data publicly accessible, they and many other organisations could channel resources more effectively. They could reduce unnecessary duplication in data collection and offer insight to improve services in areas of greatest need. They were willing to drop the barriers for the broader economic benefit.
The Challenge of Data Sharing
One challenge with sharing information is how to manage the system. Every organisation collects and presents data in different formats on different systems, so how can it be brought together? Also, vast reams of information are of little use if no one can find what they are looking for. For this reason, structure, categories and search functions are essential.
To remain relevant, data should be regularly updated, so systems for adding the latest findings and archiving older documents must be considered. Without automation, this could be an uphill task few wish to take on.
How to Overcome the Challenges
For Bucks Data Exchange, we focused on resolving these challenges. It demanded custom fields, flexible templates, automated processes and a content management system. User experience, including accessibility tools, was used in the front-end design.
Much like the swan on the Buckinghamshire crest, the outward appearance is a simple to navigate website, yet behind the scenes, there are complex processes!
We enjoyed the challenge of using our technical skills to problem solve and create a system that works. It was an honour for our team to be invited to the official launch of this website. We will continue to provide technical support for the project, especially as other organisations come on board. The partners want to invite broader participation and make this a well-used community resource.
Working with these forward-thinking partners informed our decision to take on a digital apprentice. Kai, straight after completing his A levels, joined our team just days after the Bucks Data Exchange was launched. We have offered work placement for Aylesbury College students in the past. We have also put a program for young people willing to learn web design in cooperation with Aylesbury Youth Action. Participation in the local community is an integral part of Framework Digital ethos as a commercial business. Winning and fulfilling this contract helped us not only to employ Kai but also to continue our support for the Aylesbury Youth Action program.
Director, Framework Digital
The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author and do not represent the views of affiliated organisations.