‘How Fingal County Council is using data presentation software to evidence strategic planning’
The Local Government (Dublin) Act of 1993 split Dublin into three new counties: Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (Dún Laoghaire-Ráth an Dúin); South Dublin (Áth Cliath Theas) and Fingal (Fine Gall). Five years later the Report of the Task Force on the Integration of Local Government and Local Development Systems led to the creation of country development boards (CDBs) across Ireland. Each CDB is required to prepare and oversee the implementation of a ten year county/city Strategy for Economic, Social and Cultural Development, which will provide the template guiding all public services and local development activities locally; in effect bringing more coherence to the planning and delivery of services at local level.
The Fingal Development Board set about collecting data so that it could begin to analyse socioeconomic factors in the county. As well as creating a demographic profile was created, Fingal CDB set about an audit of existing public services – to examine the county’s provision of services (including: health centres; hospitals; schools and primary care teams).
Ciarán Staunton, administrative officer, Fingal CDB says this presented an immediate challenge because little data was geo-coded so matching existing service provision to local need was not going to be straightforward. The Irish system of postcodes is informal and a new national postcode system, although designed, has yet to be signed into law.
The CDB decided that the best way forward was to set up the Fingal Data Hub (http://www.fdb.ie/fingaldatahub). The Fingal Data Hub is a technical interface that allows the member agencies of the Fingal Development Board to share and publish anonymised administrative data and official statistics.
One of the first data projects involved the Department of Social Protection which has responsibility for social welfare services in Ireland. At the time the project started there was no linkage between geocoded data and the claimant register. It took six months to match the two and the full dataset was made available for the first time in 2010.
Meeting the need
The new data set data was used to create a report which was made available on the Data Hub. Ciarán Staunton, Administrative Officer, at Fingal County Council says that this report gave some useful insight because it showed that areas where there was new housing were likely to be unemployment hotspots.
The areas of focus have now expanded and the Data Hub allows reports to be created for four themes: population; deprivation; transport and education. Ciarán says that the reports have enabled committees and groups who don’t have GIS expertise to understand the data. “Conversations are now empowered and we have overcome the postcode issue,” he says.
“Community groups like sports teams, special interest groups such as womens groups have geocoded addresses and they have to register with us to get grants. This means we can now get a clear picture of our county’s social capital and we can see what level of community provision is present - which helps with comparison. This analysis is important because it has shown, for example, that new housing areas are lagging behind in terms of social capital and the implications are important,” says Ciarán.
Ciarán believes that postcodes will change everything. “It will mean that our analysis will be at a more granular level. At the same time it will create a greater impetus for data sharing because data is still sitting in partner silos – we need to get more from our partners,” he says.
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