Exploring citizens’ views on data use so that local government can secure public trust and maximise the value of data.

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

A recent Select Committee report concluded that “the Government does not understand citizen’s views on how their data should be used” (https://bit.ly/2k2U1P0). This knowledge gap problem exists at national, regional and local levels.

Recent regulatory changes and high profile cases of data and privacy misuse has heightened public awareness, interest and mistrust of how personal data is stored and used. Public trust in new technologies is paramount for widespread adoption and uptake of innovations – AI and automation.

Cities are increasingly important in the emerging data economy, representing a major source of data enabling modern tech firms and start-ups to prosper. Whilst we want our authorities to become well-connected/ data-enabled, there is a problem – risk/ dependency this transformation undermines the social benefits that we seek to deliver. We believe that a people-centred approach will lead to more inclusive council transformation and the use of technology/ data for public good.

Only by exploring fundamental questions of public perception and acceptance will we understand how to develop trusted systems and unlock the immense opportunities digital innovation could bring. Drawing on expertise of those stakeholders shaping this agenda across the UK/ internationally, we need to collaboratively develop ethics, regulatory/governance frameworks ensuring technology is trustworthy, inclusive, and citizen-centred with a positive role.

The collaboration seeks citizen led discovery on the ethics and governance smart technologies ensuring it does not create even wider socio-economic imbalances of power and complying with privacy and data protection regulations. We seek to discover inclusive, ethical/responsible use of technology designing/implementing digital smart services/solutions.

Our respective citizens are stakeholders in a growing data ethics movement, highly dependant on multiple local authority services but are not engaged regarding their data ethics/ trust needs. Project stakeholder dependencies include Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation objectives and work undertaken by the Open Data Institute (e.g creation of ODI’s Data Ethics Canvas/ government’s Data Ethics Framework), and Information Commissioner’s Office. The development of “data trusts” could provide a robust data framework enhancing digital rights locally, giving people personal data control and minimising risk of data-enabled service solutions discriminating, excluding/ eroding privacy. The National Audit Office highlights a need to secure public trust maximising the value of data by government, yet we don’t understand people’s views on how their data should be used. This project will build on these foundations, helping develop understanding and informing local/ regional practice around collection, use/ sharing of data.

The local authority partners are embracing smart technologies to transform public services and support place shaping. We all recognise that a data-led approach is key – to generate practical insights, take an evidence-based approach to service design and delivery, and as an invaluable aid to decision-making overall.

“If smart service solutions are developed alongside core principles of cyber resilience, open standards, common platforms and interoperability, then they have the potential to dramatically improve how local authorities manage their respective districts and deliver public services”. However, the expansion, prevalence and increased reliance on digital technologies, along with increasing requirements to collect and use data present challenges that fall outside these technical and functional requirements.

Collectively we are committed to developing/ delivering our smart technology programme objectives through an ethos of responsible innovation. We are therefore alive to ethical, societal and regulatory issues associated with how local authorities and commercial partners use data across cities, districts, and regions – pertinent for citizen data.

Evidence from the partnership suggests a large gap exists – limited joined-up tools and products meaning citizens do not fully understand how their data is collected, shared/ used, and government does not understand citizens’ views on what is and is not acceptable. This lack of understanding could give rise to mistrust limiting data use, and the adoption and uptake of new data-enabled solutions. By exploring fundamental questions of perception/ acceptance we will increase abilities to develop and adopt trusted systems. We need to collaboratively develop the ethics, regulatory and governance frameworks to ensure technology is trustworthy, inclusive, and citizen-centred positively.

As a fast-changing and emergent area of concern for local authorities we will review current “state of the art”, reviewing existing literature and projects undertaken to date. Analysing previous research informing our starting point to gain an understanding of current landscape before engaging with key stakeholders and citizens, we will work hard on stakeholder/benefits mapping across authorities to understand  demographic, social/ financial returns assuming suitable citizen engagement can be achieved.

We will further develop a joined up design-led project plan, using discovery funding to explore citizen’s views on how their data should be used – truly understanding challenges/ opportunities from the citizen perspective. We will undertake primary and secondary research including user insights from representative citizen samples, through online engagement channels/focus feedback groups, surveys/questionnaires, interviews, and across partner authorities ensuring findings are robust, replicable, scalable and shared widely.

The problem is both financial and social. This Discovery project is about deeply understanding the problem, relevance, usability, and the true extent of this problem, to ultimately reduce risk and improve service efficiencies.

The scale of opportunity, and cost if not realised, is national to all districts/ authorities. Data and digital technology are ubiquitous across all aspects of daily life across the UK. However, “people are both increasingly dependent on, and distrustful of, digital technology” (https://bit.ly/2kuYvhB). To compound this, the public don’t have defined avenues to influence the development of our emerging digital environments. Future public acceptance of increased data use is contingent on us understanding citizens’ views on how their data should be used which is universally relevant and nationally significant. If public trust is not forthcoming/ lost there will be significant financial/social costs. To ensure communities/ organisations have access to the data they need, we need to make it easier for data holders to find effective stewarding data approaches (Source: theODI.org). Most authorities have access to large data amounts, yet there is rapidly increasing risk implementation is running ahead of knowledge/ governance capabilities: fast technology – legislation slow. Project management time now spent in seeking to mitigate this risk on an ad hoc basis. We need policies, regulatory frameworks, and resources to manage/ use this data to maximum effect/ benefit – understanding citizen’s needs.

Understanding citizens data use views through discovery will enable us to collate/ benchmark the cost and improvement value in local authority/ public services informing the next stage. It will improve citizens lives/ research in /outside of government innovating easier sharing of data. Wider benefits include research & scalability across public/ private sectors. Involving citizens improves public sector citizen trust/ transparency and whole economy benefits.

Over 10 years, Transport for London (TfL) led opening transport data free of charge. Deloitte study – data contributes £130 million per year (London economy), e.g citizen time-saving, reduced TfL costs/ high-value job creation.” Data driven innovation improves health well-being/ productivity via new products/ approaches

A Project Board established with key local authority partner representation combined and supplementary stakeholder advisory group supporting scoping and delivery. A terms of reference will contain roles/ responsibilities, protocol/ meeting frequency etc.

Project scoping and implementation will be undertaken through standardised project management approach. Agile Iterative project management tools/ techniques to scope, manage, implement, review, evaluate the project and report on status.

For example: a comprehensive project management toolkit will be used including:

  • Plans for key project elements including resourcing, project implementation and dissemination, stakeholder engagement, progress meetings and monitoring
  • Highlight/ status reports (Monthly) milestones progress, budget, added value/ service efficiency tracker
  • Risks/issues/dependency log
  • Project closure process including end user acceptance testing/ lessonsThe Project Board will govern/ review effective delivery this process through project management reporting at Board meetings.
  • The lead authority partner (Project Manager) will lead the communications/ engagement process, including iterative development/ implementation through key phases with service owners/ senior stakeholders.

The use of communications technology: tele/video conferencing and secure shared IT applications on premises and cloud (e.g via Microsoft Office 365), and the use of social media and working groups (e.g Trello/ Slack) ensuring joined up project management process and delivery.

We are keen to communicate effectively with MHCLG and explore support and guidance opportunities with the Local Collaboration Unit to underpin effective awareness raising, governance and project management approach, delivery, benefits realisation, knowledge transfer and legacy of the investment including:

  • Access to GDS user research labs (to help improve cost effective user research sessions)
  • Training sessions offered by GDS Academy to bring all key members of the project up to a uniform standard specifically working-level and leadership courses in Digital and Agile at basic and intermediate levels
  • Ability to send communications via MHCLG channels (such as newsletters, social media) to help us promote the benefits of the project and its approach
  • Support with sharing outputs and wider benefits across local government and with key organisations
  • Access to networks and support with engaging with other local authorities that wish to understand and engage with the project.The proposed discovery phase project and regional collaboration aligns and directly supports the delivery of existing strategies, including Bristol’s One City Plan, Connecting Bristol Strategy, Smart Leeds and Cardiff’s Smart City Roadmap. Bristol is Open is geared to provide agile support as required through existing working management arrangements with Bristol City Council with no funding requirement on the Local Digital Fund grant.
  • The project team are keen to undertake further MHCLG facilitated training in best practice approaches to citizen engagement, and agile project management best practice using various learning methods. We also seek to maximise learning through interactive end user engagement sessions and events throughout the project lifecycle.

The outputs of the Discovery project will inform the partner authorities approach and ethos to data ethics, and wider technology development, planning and implementation. Following a design-led innovation process aligned to the Design Council’s Double Diamond Model, would support our insights from the Discovery project to be fully defined, developed, tested and refined prior to delivery and wider scale up. This approach aligns with the staged funding approach of the Local Digital Fund and Alpha and Beta funding and support may be sought to support this process if appropriate.