‘How the Office for National Statistics has used data visualisation to enhance its Local Enterprise Partnership profiles’


The Office for National Statistics is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognised national statistical institute of the UK. It produces a series of bi-annual Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Profiles to help LEPs use official statistics to better understand the economic, social and environmental picture for LEPs and the local authority areas within them. The LEP Profiles include official statistics covering a variety of different themes to provide a broad overview of each LEP such as: demography, employment, enterprise, inclusion, skills and housing.

Tom Mahoney works in the Area Based Analysis team and says the LEP profiles are popular but the team felt that data mapping software would improve the profiles and help users understand the data better.

Having used InstantAtlas for another project on commuter flows, they decided it should also be used for the LEP releases. As well as improving the way the data was presented, the team realised it could also save them time. Tom says: “The InstantAtlas tool can be updated quickly and offers users a new, visual perspective on LEP data and is currently used to supplement the more traditional Excel workbooks, which take longer to update.”

Getting started

The first step was to discuss the process of producing the report and formatting the data for InstantAtlas. Internal discussions about the design and publishing process followed and the decision was made to publish the profiles through the ONS Neighbourhood Statistics Service (NeSS) website.

Meeting the need

The Profiles were released at the end of May 2013 and have been popular on the NeSS website which attracts over 1 million users every year. Other departments within the ONS are looking at the way the data mapping software has been used and are interested in broadening its use.

“We are hoping to engage a wider range of stakeholders by promoting the LEP profiles. For instance, we have begun an email campaign to all LEPs and will be taking a similar approach to other organisations such as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. However, it is still relatively early days,” says Tom.

Tom says that although ONS has its own GIS experts, InstantAtlas allows individual teams to present data quickly, in a format that lacks complexity and is more accessible to the public as well as specific customers. It means that ONS teams that don’t have GIS expertise can present data in a compelling way.


Future Developments

“With each new profile release we want to include more data to give LEPs a detailed picture of what is happening in each area,” says Tom.

Toms’s top technical tip

“When it came to developing the LEP Profiles we wanted to display time series data for a number of variables and different geographies. We worked out that by using the double map template it is possible to filter the data in this way and produce maps that allow for time series analysis by synchronising the data across two geographies.”

Key benefits

  • InstantAtlas has improved the data visualisation element of the profiles which in turn has led to better engagement
  • The new approach has increased awareness of the array of data that is available from the ONS
  • There are anticipated efficiency savings going forward in terms of time for future releases – updates to the InstantAtlas product are less resource and time intensive than updates to the Excel-based profiles
  • Data mapping software is helping the ONS meet its vision and values by improving the display of geographical data

ONS LEPs Profiles was developed with InstantAtlas Desktop

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