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ECDA - Building Data Capability


The Essex Centre for Data Analytics (ecda) is a flagship project between the University of Essex, Essex County Council and Essex Police. The programme understands the value that shared data can provide to generate powerful insight on some of the county’s most challenging issues. By combining this data with research into the lived experience of the community, data can provide a compelling evidence base on which to make decisions about how the services that people need most are planned, designed and delivered.

Not analytics for analytics sake, analytics with a purpose’ – Alex Flores, Chief Scientific Advisor (University of Essex)

Expertise in data science and data analytics at the University of Essex helped to drive Essex Partners' ambition to invest in ecda and create a new data sharing platform for the Essex system. Alex Flores, the Chief Scientific Adviser at the University of Essex who is directly involved in the work of ecda says "I think it’s really quite amazing that there was the appetite to use data to identify specific challenges and how this has been embraced by Essex Police and ECC".

ecda has already worked across topics including domestic abuse, knife crime, physical activity, safer businesses, violence and vulnerability and school readiness combining anonymised data from different partner organisations, which is then triangulted with research at a community level, to draw out patterns and form options for impactful, whole system responses.

Of specific interest to ecda Partners is System Readiness, preparing partner organisations across Essex to be ready to maximise the opportunity that changes in technology and data science can bring to public services.  For example, the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence in the ambitions of Government, Local Economic Partnerships and Local Authorities. For these things to be viable organisations need to understand and manage their data, data and information governance laws and procedures, set robust ethical standards, to enable them to unlock the potential of data, and that takes trained Data Scientists among other roles. Reflecting a national trend, the work the University of Essex is doing as part of ecda is creating skilled and capable Data Scientists to feed the need for greater capacity in Data Science in the region.

For Alex Flores, seeing the system benefits is more important than the impact for any single organisation which is why the building of capacity in this space is taking place across multiple organisations in a number of ways including; training and courses for colleagues across the Public Sector; departmental audits helping to upskill the university workforce across different departments and a University based Masters programme set up in Social Data Science, all to invest in the future and ensure capacity is there in Essex to maximise opportunities to come.