Council leaders have been urged to "grasp the nettle" and embrace big data by the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) despite an "extreme" shortage of big data skills.
The body for IT managers suggested in a briefing paper dubbed Realising the potential of big data analytics that there is a huge potential for big data analytics to transform the way public services are provided.
However, Socitm noted that big data skills are still in short supply. "The shortage is so extreme that individuals who have the dream combination of tech skills, analytical and industry knowledge, and the business sense and soft skills to turn data into value, are so rare that they are known as 'unicorns'," said the document.
Outsourcing big data activity to the private sector as a solution is likely to compound the usual fundamental problems around data ownership, security and governance, according to the paper.
But on the flip side, retraining existing employees as big data experts carries its own risks. Socitm suggested that councils could suffer a "brain drain" to better paid opportunities in the private sector.
But Socitm believes that there could be an opportunity if mayors are elected in all of England's cities through the government's devolution.
"Those local authorities leading the way in digital services and service redesign are the ones likely to be at the vanguard when it comes to big data projects and practices," noted the document.
Socitm suggested that the UK should aim to carry out projects with the scope of the City of New York Mayor's Office of Data Analytics, as its success in the use of data for resource allocation and preventative interventions had not yet been seen in the UK.
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