O’Malley makes case for data-driven delivery

28 Apr 15

Data-driven delivery is the way forward for public services, US presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley told a high-level conference in London this week.

O’Malley described how, as Mayor of Baltimore and during two terms as Maryland governor, he had developed data-based performance management techniques – ‘new, collaborative ways of governing’ – that had significantly improved public services.

Popularly known as ‘CityStat’ and ‘StateStat’, these methods are helping to address a wide range of issues, from policing and infrastructure, to child poverty, hospital admissions and pollution, he said.

Greater data transparency and focused targeting of resources on troubled ‘hotspots’ is making ‘people feel a heck of a lot better about how cities run in the US,’ said O’Malley, who is tipped as a Democrat presidential candidate. He said he is committed to rolling out similar techniques at the federal level.

‘We’ve seen a lot of change for the better. But it requires constant tending.’

The conference, jointly hosted by the Centre for Public Impact, the Institute for Government and the UK Cabinet Office, was attended by high-level public officials from France, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, the US and the UK.

Sir Michael Barber, head of the UK Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in Tony Blair’s Labour government, told delegates that really far-reaching use of data-driven delivery had only just begun.

‘Far from having “done delivery”, we are right at the very early stages of this revolution around the world,’ said Barber, who advocates ‘tackling common problems via common platforms’.

If anything, the techniques can have ‘even more impact in an era of austerity, when that degree of precision can make services more effective and more economical,’ he said

Both speakers emphasised some of the barriers in the way of driving forward effective implementation, including bureaucratic resistance and lack of political will and public involvement.

‘In the UK, data-driven management has often been seen as a centralised thing,’ said Barber.

‘It’s not. It’s a collaborative thing.’

O’Malley agreed, saying: ‘Technology is not an end in itself. It just gives you the tools. It’s the means to a new way of governing . In the US we call it “crowd-sourced healing”.’

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