Skip to main content


Smart County Conference


On the 8th of March 2017, Kent Connects hosted a ‘Smart County’ conference as part of the digital.together transformation programme, a pioneering initiative of awareness and inspiration focussing on the opportunities that the digital agenda creates for all communities and sectors in Kent. The conference showcased several fantastic speakers from the likes of Code the City Aberdeen, Microsoft and Nesta.

Opened by William Benson, Chair of Kent Connects Public Service ICT Board, and CEO of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, the day focused on how public and private sector organisations can use data more efficiently, and identify the opportunities where they can use data to benefit their organisation that they are not taking advantage of already.

The conference started with Andy Spurway from Microsoft who focused on principles, practices and performance with regards to data. His line of thought was that when making progression with improving the usage of data, it is best to start with a problem, and then use data to help identify the solution rather than sifting data without clear goals. Some of the roadblocks that he identified were greater budget pressures, uncertain political times, increasing demand for services and growing threats from cyber-crime. As a result of this there are more calls to work outside organisational boundaries in partnership with other service providers.

An interesting fact that he emphasised on was that ‘90% of the world’s data was generated in the last 2 years’ and it is ever growing, meaning the challenges coming along with this are also ever growing.

Moreover his principles were that data driven services should deliver value and and inform and drive transformation.

Ian Watt from Code the City Aberdeen, discussed the impact of open data and what difference it makes. He shared his experiences in Local Government, the Scottish Cities Alliance and ODI Aberdeen and his methodologies. An interesting piece of work he showed which was internal to Councils was benchmarking showing the levels of data maturity across the cities within the Scottish Cities Alliance. Below is the template of how this is shown.

He summarised with his main points being

  • Understand where you are and where you are headed through common benchmarking, skills matrices, and mapping of the internal and external communities. Have a sense of how you will get to a destination.
  • Collaboration is essential – internally and with partners.
  • Use existing tools that work: develop and share them where there are gaps
  • Grow communities through interaction, internally and externally. Build things such as open data platforms with users, not for
  • Strengthen communities through common themes – and bring coalitions of interested parties together.
  • Share data, tools, approaches, models, documentation and progress. Code for Europe showed us that open data, open source and open licensing go well together.


After the short networking break we had Claire Inkpen from ESRI UK and Martin Collins from Kent Fire and Rescue Service discussing analysing data.

Claire Inkpen started by quoting Andrew Gardener, a GIS officer form Epping forest District Council emphasising the importance of GIS by stating “ArcGIS has enabled us to create user-friendly mobile solutions that start to save money, improve our efficiency and deliver better information to citizens straight away”

Moreover the benefits of GIS for all organisations private and public sector were identified and was a real eye opener for some of the audience, given that the general conception was that GIS simply allows you to find points on a map. For example, one could enter their postcode into a GIS search function, and find out a wide variety of information for that area such as, bin collection dates, bus transport and traffic information. As a result it can be used as an application to make sense of data and manage access to the content of who has access.


Martin Collins followed on from this by reviewing the types and sources of data used by Kent Fire to build their road networks used in calculating response times and distance before looking at how current and new data sources will be used in the future.

He concluded explaining that using vehicle location based mobilising requires:

  • Constant upkeep of data sources.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the data available.
  • Reliable positional data from resources.

Martin also took the time to thank National Address Gazetteer custodians, who without which accurate road network data would not be possible.

After lunch the conference concluded with Tom Symons from Nesta discussing datavores of local government and Abraham George from Kent County Council discussing digital health.

Tom opened by explaining how the government can get more from data, and take advantage of opportunities that it presents. The main ways in which he identified that councils can utilise data are

  • Optimising management of place and infrastructure.
  • Testing ‘what works’.
  • Intelligent case management.
  • Outcomes – based performance management.
  • Understanding and responding to citizen needs.
  • Identifying fraud and error.

He summarised explaining that public sector organisations should all start with a clear problem to be solved, for which data can offer impactful and actionable insight. Gauge the level of support for data-led work in senior leadership and work to convince them of the importance of the project and evaluate the overall impact of the work against the original objectives.


The final presentation was given by Abraham George of KCC who discussed examples of innovative data usage in Kent by the Kent integrated dataset programme. He illuminated on background, aims and objectives, scope of the dataset, uses of the dataset and how it supports local health.

The Smart County conference was a very successful day with delegates finding great benefit not only from the presentations but also the Q&A sessions where our speakers delved into thought provoking discussions with delegates throughout the day.





Subscribe today for updates on the latest Kent Connects events