Shining a light on the potential of open data

Sharing insight and intelligence that helps our county to plan, prioritise and shape our understanding of community needs has always been important to us.  As part of our collaborative data efforts we have launched a new Open Data COVID-19 risk and vulnerability mapping tool that helps our District and Borough colleagues and voluntary organisations do just that…..

Data has been at the forefront of ECC’s effort to bring together people and insight to inform a countywide response to support those most in need during Coronavirus. Our focus has been on using the wealth of data available to create a map to identify which of our residents are most at risk of COVID-19 so that together with our partners we can support the most vulnerable communities in Essex with shielding and essential support.

Over the last fortnight the Public Health Intelligence team have linked together data from different sources at a neighbourhood level, combining health and social care data about the prevalence of certain health conditions with demographic data.  This has become rich and valuable intelligence that enables Local Authorities, community and voluntary organisations and other partners within Essex to direct additional support where it’s needed most. And most importantly we have made it open for everyone to access and use.

The dashboard has been created mirroring guidance from government, presenting a map of the most vulnerable households within our county. We hope that  provide a central source of data and insight to support partners to take action at both strategic and operational levels to help tackle the Coronavirus outbreak.  We have shared this with our new community hubs who are first responders for extremely vulnerable people asking for help and support, and we continue to work with districts to share data in a safe and secure way to help them deliver these vital services.

Local services are relying on data-led insight more and more to make effective decisions to manage the pandemic, whether that’s to track the virus, find and assist the most vulnerable or to deliver new approaches fast.

Local services are also realising, more and more, the power of the data they hold to generate insight to manage the pandemic. Strong foundations on which to share data already existed across key public sector partners within Essex pre-COVID-19, however through adversity we have witnessed an even greater commitment to facilitating the exchange of data across the Essex system.

It has been very satisfying collaborating with the rest of the Public Health team, sharing knowledge and skills to create a tool that has been shared so widely, ensuring its maximum potential usage, something that isn't always possible with our work. It has been great to see partners recognising the importance of using an evidence-based approach to tackle the issues caused by our current situation. We have had feedback that the dashboard is enabling District partners to take a deeper look at their data and that it has sparked ideas for the creation of similar dashboards in other Local Authorities.

The accomplishment of generating lifesaving insight through this system collaboration has shone a light on what is possible and how we could share more data to help others plan and respond whilst adhering to safe and secure ethical and data protection standards.  We’re now asking our partners to consider what the art of the possible might be if we breakdown our data silos further still, to improve data-sharing beyond management of this immediate crisis and join together critical data to produce research and insight that enables us all to plan our county’s recovery and look forward to working more closely with then in the future.

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