The art of the possible
In collaboration with TechUK, the DDP ran a workshop with key staff from the fire sector as well technology experts from the private sector to explore the art of the possible. The workshop centred around three main themes: necessity of data skills throughout organisations, ethics in dealing with data and the future of data and the FRS.
The first of the sessions explored how the NFCC could develop data skills across all roles and the core principles of creating a healthy data culture in an organisation. Participants discussed the importance of ‘baking’ data into an organisation’s strategy from the top down: if leaders understand that data is an asset in their organisation then that attitude can more easily flow through all areas and not just be confined to data analysts. This may involve a level of data training for leaders and staff within the organisation to foster greater curiosity about data and working through the practicalities of this is the next step.
Further discussions established that good data quality relies heavily on buy-in from those charged with collecting it. Explaining why data is needed gives meaning to this essential task. It was concluded that a framework that defines and oversees the evolution of data-focused roles within the fire and rescue services could be useful in facilitating better conversations between those whose job it is to deal with data and those who use (or should use) the data to make decisions.
Fire and rescue services use geographical and socio demographic data from both private and public sources to understand risk and allocate its finite resources accordingly. With the use of large amounts of public data to make decisions comes difficult ethical questions that extend beyond considering only General Data Protection Regulations and personal data.
The workshop established that extending awareness of these ethical considerations beyond those involved in information governance to those involved in collecting, storing, and using data in the fire and rescue services is an important next step in the organisation’s digital maturity. No definitive solutions were agreed during this session; however, the DDP will look to sources on this topic from places like the Open Data Institute, the Office for Artificial Intelligence and the Government Digital Service for ideas on best practice. The police are more mature in this area so the DDP will seek to learn from their experience.
The fuzzy future
The final session was devoted to future gazing and covered the perennial themes of data quality, data standards and leadership. The session raised fundamental questions about skills gaps within the fire and rescue services: the NFCC would like to see a national level vision based on investing in data, however, there remains uncertainty in what the current digital skill set is in the fire and rescue services and what is required in the future to make the most of data.