‘We do not aspire to have a 'philosophy' of data. Rather, we must find practical ways for data to improve our lives – and the use of location data is key.’ The essence of a keynote speech by Jesse Norman MP, Minister of State for the Department for Transport, speaking at the GeoPlace Conference.
It is widely accepted that central and local government has an aspiration to build ‘smart, digital futures’ at a national level. But many local authorities are still working on improving the foundations for better, practical services. Data-oriented, citizen-focused. Most of these services involve location data, many of them start with a transport-oriented focus, and the quality of the Street and Addressing data being used in those services is essential.
GeoPlace is a partnership between the Local Government Association and the organisation collecting on-the-ground geographic data for the UK, Ordnance Survey. GeoPlace maintains the infrastructure that ingests address and street data collected by Street and Addressing Custodians, working in local authorities, and it then makes that data available to the entire public and private sector via dedicated OS products.
The result is a national asset – a comprehensive database of Address and Street data containing Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) and Unique Street Reference Numbers (USRNs), reflecting the reality of assets on the ground.
This data is meeting the highest standards, even in international terms. That is due to the work done by a network of Custodians, taking on a range of duties within their local authority. Each year, GeoPlace’s conference gives those Custodians a platform to be recognised for their work, to meet, and to exchange ideas and best practice examples of using location data to help improve local services.
The vital work of Custodians
The success of local services depends on having joined-up data sources that lead to efficient and effective use of authoritative information.
As Jesse Norman pointed out, local authorities can face challenges when it comes to deriving maximum value from some of the data they have at their fingertips. This is a pervasive paradox: people will defend their right to privacy, and yet be willing to offer the most personal details about their bank account, name, and home address to get a discount on a 12 inch pizza.
The work done by Custodians helps to bridge that gap. Their work generates the generic yet authoritative and unique detail that enables people to benefit with no fear of personal intrusion. Street and Addressing data are key to improving services that are appreciated for their customer-focused approach, but also trusted and then taken up with enthusiasm – delivering efficiencies all round.
Nick Chapallaz, Managing Director of GeoPlace, says: ‘Every year, it gives us immense pleasure to highlight the work done by Street and Address Custodians. The Street and Addressing data they collect is so important. Through the awards presented at our annual conference, we reflect their ongoing commitment to improving the accuracy and quality of that data, and the success stories – the ways in which local authorities are using that information and really bringing location to life.’
As an example of that work, the GeoPlace Exemplar Award 2019 was awarded to Conwy County Borough Council for its Environment, Roads and Facilities (ERF) Digital Transformation Project. This award highlights excellence in local addressing and/or street datasets being used to deliver significant savings and real-world benefits for communities in a specific area.
In Conwy, this involved a restructure of the departments responsible for almost all of the council’s front-line services – everything from highway maintenance to parks, street lighting, road safety, flood risk management, and bereavement services.
After an in-depth review, the existing Highways Asset Management system was chosen as the basis for the new departmental system. As a result, every customer-generated request for service is driven by a USRN. The result is a suite of connected, consistent, trusted Customer Portals that have been whole-heartedly embraced by the public – with significant savings, right across the council.
Recognising the importance of location data
The practical applications for Street and Addressing data are recognised by a range of awards at the conference. These include a Data Quality and Improvement Award; a Best Data in a specific region award; and recognition across the board for local authorities whose Custodians are curating data at a recognised ‘Gold’ standard.
These awards are important. Socio-economic success depends not just on having an insight as to what needs to happen. It depends on having the high-quality data to identify where change should happen.
Physical addressing, itself, is the cornerstone of that society and that economy, and Jesse Norman’s opening comments were a preface to the conference’s overarching theme: better-connected, more-accurate location data can deliver the outstanding results that lead to a much brighter future – in the land and property sector, for transport, health, welfare, defence, security, communications, education, utilities’ management and more. The practical take-up of location data within local authorities is key, and Street and Address Custodians hold the key that will unlock that value.
Find out more about GeoPlace at www.geoplace.co.uk