West Midlands to get Office for Data Analytics

Devolution paper also includes plans for Digital Capability Framework, new digital hub and challenges for GovTech Catalyst

The West Midlands is to get a regional Office for Data Analytics under its new devolution deal, accompanied by plans for a Digital Capability Framework and a new technology hub.

Abstract - binary numbers on grey blocksThe measures are among those outlined in the policy paper for the recently created West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), published late last month by HM Treasury.

It includes a strong emphasis on the importance of digital for the region’s economy and public services, describing it as the “golden thread”, and on the use of data in public services.

One of the clear financial commitments in the document is £800,000 over three years from government for the creation of a WMCA Office for Data Analytics, following a lead set by the Greater London Authority earlier this year.

It will bring together existing investment in research, data and intelligence to support the delivery of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan, and provide an evidence base for future changes in public services.

This will be accompanied by the WMCA working with the Government Digital Service and the Department for Communities and Local Government to look at how open data and secure data can be used in improving public services.

It will also draw up a Digital Capability Framework to set out the level of skills required for effective programmes and which can be used to disseminate best practice across local government.

Intelligent customer

“The WMCA will be an informed, intelligent, efficient customer for digital innovation in the public sector,” it says. “This will be supported by best practice digital governance.”

The document points to existing initiatives aimed at boosting the digital sector in the region, notably the creation of a local hub as part of the expansion of Tech City UK programme for supporting digital start-ups, and the location of a £2 million pilot scheme to use vouchers to promote the roll out of fast broadband in Coventry and Warwickshire.

It also encourages the WMCA to put forward challenges to the recently announced GovTech Catalyst to supported by a £20 million fund, and to explore the possibility of converting unused public sector office space into co-working spaces for local tech entrepreneurs.

“Building on the area’s unique specialist strengths, the mayor and the WMCA have a compelling vision to become a global tech hub to rival Berlin, Austin and Tallinn,” the document says. “Harnessing the power of digital in the public sector and creating the right environment for tech start-ups to flourish are two key shared objectives of the government, the mayor and WMCA.”