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Revealed: The Scottish Local Authorities Using Analytics Tools

Ross Kelly

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Scottish data analytics

A host of Scottish local authorities and councils are using predictive analytics or data analytics tools to improve customer engagement and address social issues. 

More than 50 local authorities across the UK are using predictive analytics to detect problems before they occur, according to research by Data Justice Lab and Sky News.

Predictive analytics is being used for a host of issues, including benefits sanctions and traffic management in local authorities, the research found.

Along with local authorities, nearly one-third of the UK’s 45 police forces are also using predictive algorithms to pre-emptively tackle crime.

14 police forces, including the Metropolitan Police – the UK’s largest police service – are using computer models to provide advice on which crimes should be investigated and where future events may happen based on data.

Privacy advocates and civil rights group have previously raised concerns over the use of predictive analytics by police forces across the UK.

In September 2018, a report published by the Royal United Services Institute warned that the use of machine learning, data analytics and predictive computer models by police forces lacked regulation, oversight and adequate codes of practice.

Read more: UK Police Machine Learning Deployment ‘Lacks Regulation & Oversight’

The research by Data Justice Lab showed that no police forces in Scotland are using predictive analytics, however, a number of local authorities confirmed they are using predictive/data analytics tools in some capacity or are exploring the possibility of deployment.

The majority of these projects involves social care or customer service-oriented analytics tools.

Glasgow City Council, Falkirk Council, Argyll and Bute Council, Inverclyde Council and Perth & Kinross responded to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by Data Justice Lab.

In response to Data Justice Lab’s FoI request, Inverclyde Council said:

“The Health & Social Care Partnership currently uses 3 main Algorithmic/Predictive/Data analytical tools which would also be used by all other Local Authorities’ and/or Health Boards throughout Scotland.”

These include:

In Argyll and Bute, the local council uses automated speech analytics and algorithms to establish what a customer is requesting and to route calls to the appropriate department – these are based on the Nuance speech service.

Argyll and Bute Council also uses the Sentiment Metrics social media service, which uses algorithms to analyse user sentiment about the council based on social media postings made by customers and/or constituents.

Glasgow City Council said it is also using data analytics in an “exploratory capacity on ad hoc projects”.

This includes statistics, data analysis, visualisation and reporting, and the local authority insisted it does not use machine learning in any capacity.

“We have not developed any systems as yet,” Glasgow City Council said. “The only project that has gone into live production and has had a material impact is the auto-entitlement project for free school meals/clothing grant, where we used a data matching technique to automate payments for certain benefits.”

Orkney Islands Council confirmed it had one system that uses data analytics, the Hazman online risk register. This system stores navigational risk assessments for the harbour area and records any incidents.

If an incident is recorded, the system allows for the alterations of a risk rating for a particular risk assessment.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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