Image credit: ODI/Caley Dewhurst

How can data help cities to address concerns around Covid-19?

Tue Oct 20, 2020
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We discuss how data can help cities address the unique challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis

Since September, we have seen cities across the UK enter various forms of local lockdown

In addition to their normal duties, councils are now increasingly being relied upon to provide additional support for local businesses, advise citizens on how to comply with current guidelines and even undertake certain enforcement activities around Covid-19. 

It has become evident during the course of the pandemic that city councils are under immense pressure to make fast but well-informed decisions. However, in order to do this effectively, decision makers need a strong evidence base to point to, which means having access to good quality and relevant data.

In many cases, useful datasets may already be available to city decision makers. For example, a number of public and private organisations which ordinarily collect mobility data (for example, data about the movement of people and transport) have been making some of this data openly available. Mobility data has a number of potential users and uses in a Covid-19 context – including identifying peak times for public transport services, understanding how people move around shops to help maintain social distancing requirements, and enabling services such as track and trace to notify users about confirmed cases in their vicinity. Existing datasets collected and used by specific project teams within local authorities may also prove to be beneficial, as will relationships teams have both internally and with external partners, in encouraging and facilitating data sharing and data access. 

While data like this might exist within a city, authorities need to know who is collecting it, where it is being published or stored and how they can access and use it to make better decisions. Identifying where data sits, and where it is and isn’t flowing to, helps decision makers have a better understanding of where there might be opportunities to create impact. It can also highlight where gaps in the data – or other barriers such as a lack of data skills – may be preventing authorities from solving city-wide problems.

Open cities workshops

At the Open Data Institute (ODI), we run open cities workshops. These one-day workshops, which can be run virtually, have been designed to support city authorities to address the challenges outlined. The aim of these workshops is to explore where data lives, what data is needed to solve specific problems and identify where there are gaps in data or in data flow. The workshop is built around the ODI’s Data and Public Services Toolkit, a set of tools used by city teams to drive change, communicate insights and embed learning. Every workshop is tailored to your context and specific needs.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how data can help cities to address concerns around Covid-19, and how the ODI can help, please join our webinar.