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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
02 November 2022
Radical action is needed to use increased data effectively

Worker collecting data | Alamy

Radical action is needed to use increased data effectively

“Radical action” is needed if the public sector is to make better use of data analytics, according to Scotland’s government spending watchdog.

Audit Scotland has said “Scotland is facing enormous challenges” citing the rise of inequality, an ageing population increasing the pressure on health and care services, the cost-of-living crisis, and the climate emergency.  

It believes data is often being seen as “a burden for public bodies” and there are large gaps in data collection and analysis in several areas, created by people capturing data on the frontline, who are often hard-pressed and do not see the wider benefits of its use, as well as a lack of understanding from public sector leaders on how best to use data, or not having the data they need.  

The spending watchdog added that if the gaps were filled it would allow for more accurate decision-making, would give greater insight into policy outcomes, and show where spending is having the greatest impact.  

Gemma Diamond, audit director of performance audit and best value, said: “Right now, data is often seen as a burden for public bodies, rather than the key to better policy decisions.

“People producing data are often stuck in a cycle of reporting for reporting’s sake. Often those people capturing data are on the frontline, already hard-pressed, and don’t see its wider benefits, leading to missing or poor-quality data. There are also concerns that data will be misused if shared.

“Public sector leaders, too, are not clear on what data they have and how to use it. Or they find that the data they want is simply missing or doesn’t exist.

“This all uses precious staff resources but without delivering the value and insights we need...

“Often, we [Audit Scotland], and other public sector bodies, simply cannot get the specific evidence we need to decide whether money has been well spent.”

 

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