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Local information systems paying their way

January 29th, 2010

Government commissioned research published this week values local information systems (or Data Observatories) at up to £500K per year, significantly above development and ongoing costs.

By far the bulk of annual spend (ranging up to £130K) were staff costs, and system managers identified that the main area for potential saving was in reducing the time spent obtaining and loading data. OCSI have been working with several local information system teams to save time spent in inputting data and setting-up performance reports and needs assessments (for local economic assessment, joint strategic needs assessment and other work). The Data and Report Packs load straight into standard local information systems including InstantAtlas, providing a rich range of indicators and high quality report outputs. To find out more, see our pages on the Data and Report Packs, or contact us.

Key findings from the “Understanding the value and benefits of establishing a local information system” research include:

  • Local information systems generate an overall benefit:
    • A conservative estimate of £140-210 value for an average user /year (time saved in obtaining information from other sources), giving a breakeven point of roughly 300-400 users per year for a system with average running costs. Most systems have many more users than this.
    • Many examples of information underpinning successful funding bids by local organisations
    • Using information well in decision making leads to better local public services, with those authorities demonstrating good information use more likely to be strongly performing (Audit Commission ‘In the know’ report), with 94% of LAs saying use of information has become an increasing strategic priority (Audit Commission ‘Is there something I should know?’ report)
  • Where systems can make savings:
    • Main suggestions focused on decreasing time to input data
    • Off-the-shelf systems significantly cheaper than bespoke.
  • Key recommendations for local information systems teams
    • Identify the value of your system: Collect detailed information about users and time spent on the site (and use the Local information systems value-assessment tool)
    • System managers should be encouraged and supported to adopt and share good practice from the Open Data programme, including the ONS Neighbourhood Statistics Data Exchange
    • Local information systems, performance management and finance systems should adopt common interoperability standards to make integration easier within, and across, partner organisations.

Relevant links: