By Blacktown City Council
The current pandemic has brought into stark relief the exposure of local businesses to the effects of this major public health shock.
The response by most local councils has been to support local business and help minimise the negative effects of the pandemic on their businesses and move forward.
This situation has highlighted to many of us in local government the strengths and weaknesses of our local economies. It has also indicated how we may need to learn more about how our local areas function as part of the broader system of the Australian economy.
The current situation
At present, Blacktown City Council is served well by different layers of data sets provided by data gathering/data analytic services. This data covers areas such as:
- economic indicators
- economic value
- local employment
- industry focus
- journey to work
- local and resident workers
- market profile.
This information creates a good structure to explain the size of the economy and businesses, industry sectors which create local jobs, levels of output, value added activities and local sales.
This is good information. However, it’s historical and based on data generated in some cases 12 months or more ago. We do not know what is currently happening in the economy in sufficient detail.
This is important, because during the current COVID-19 pandemic, our local businesses have been significantly affected by the changing local economic conditions brought about by random outbreaks of the disease. There have been very few metrics to measure what’s been happening in our local economy during this period. What information has been available has tended to be anecdotal and selective.
Big data project
Blacktown City’s preference would be to know what is happening in real time, so that our limited resources can be prioritised. We need to target our activities and maximise the return on our service and optimise the beneficial effects of Council’s engagement with our local business community.
Council wants to know the movements of money around our local economy. We want to find out at any one time:
- the business cohort which generates revenue
- where revenue is spent
- what revenue is spent on, such as wages and investment
- how much created wealth leaks out of the local economy.
The concept would be to create a desktop dashboard and use access to financial information to generate data trends. Council would not want access to individual data. We are more interested in the information created by data from the different business cohorts across our City.
The challenge is to:
- to create the algorithms which can identify and select financial data in a useable format
- have legal access to this financial data
- be able to translate that data into positive actions by local government.
This project is emerging out of some blue sky thinking.
We’re beginning to form a project team to understand the technical challenges and conditions of access for gathering such data.
If you are interested in finding out more, or being part of a solution to the ‘big data’ challenge, please contact David Somerville at email@example.com