Like most local authorities, Devon County Council is going through a period of rapid change. – some of that is about cutting back services in the current period of austerity, but it is also about doing things differently. In particular, the relationship between the council and ‘the public’ is changing. In the past, County Councils were principally direct providers of services – school education, roads, social care for the elderly, child protection, trading standards and libraries, amongst other things. Increasingly, we are looking to commission services from others, in the private, voluntary and social enterprise sectors, and to try to pass more decision making to local communities.
Up to now, our data have been used to help our own decision making, and that’s often been done quite deliberately in silos. More community based decision making and the unaffordability of providing the same service everywhere, though, means that the way different services are provided in the same location matters far more. We hold much information that is, in effect, the market intelligence for a big service provider; now we need to turn that into market intelligence for communities and business. We can only do that by understanding needs, both for the type of information and how it can be presented.
- Highways Innovation
Devon has the most extensive road network of any English local authority with 12,820 kilometres [nearly 8,000 miles] of highways. The Highways and Traffic Management Group delivers a broad range of front line services that monitor and maintains this network. The highway maintenance service is revenue funded and is required to maintain roads, pavements, footways, bridges and culverts etc. which make up the highway network. Your challenge is to develop an application to discover something new about Devon’s highways. For example you could pull together data related to hospital admissions and falls on the highway, making a case for public health funding. You could also look at hydrocast catchment data cross referenced with the highway network and settlements to pull together a highway flood risk map.
- Healthy Communities, community connections and intelligence
We all need to manage our own health as individuals, and we live in communities that may have particular health challenges e.g. high rates of dementia, obesity or mental health problems.
Your challenge is to either develop an application to bring people together and enable them to better manage their health or find an innovative way to brief councillors, commissioners and/or practitioners with intelligence on the health of or the community connections available in their area. For example it could help to raise awareness of particular health issues in the community; link information sources; stimulate new activities; or enable people to make full use of what the local library can offer by incorporating it into your own knowledge application. This could draw upon data from a wide variety of sources. For example public health data including the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, or other resources such as the Devon Community Directory and data from other Devon partners and agencies. It may draw upon your own reading or listening preferences to generate choices from library stock information, supplementing other sources and what you hold personally. Similarly it could alert you to activities at the local library that match your own needs or interests.
Select any issue that is of social concern. Examples might include youth unemployment, underage pregnancy or alcohol abuse, which persist despite much public investment and statutory intervention. You challenge is to design a possible application to bring together all those affected by your chosen issue, and find and apply new solutions.