The Local Government (Dublin) Act of 1993 split Dublin into three new counties: Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (Dún Laoghaire-Ráth an Dúin); South Dublin (Áth Cliath Theas) and Fingal (Fine Gall). Five years later the Report of the Task Force on the Integration of Local Government and Local Development Systems led to the creation of country development boards (CDBs) across Ireland. Each CDB is required to prepare and oversee the implementation of a ten year county/city Strategy for Economic, Social and Cultural Development, which will provide the template guiding all public services and local development activities locally; in effect bringing more coherence to the planning and delivery of services at local level.
The Fingal Development Board set about collecting data so that it could begin to analyse socioeconomic factors in the county. As well as creating a demographic profile was created, Fingal CDB began an audit of existing public services – to examine the county’s provision of services (including: health centres; hospitals; schools and primary care teams).
Ciarán Staunton, administrative officer, Fingal CDB says this presented an immediate challenge because little data was geo-coded so matching existing service provision to local need was not going to be straightforward. The Irish system of postcodes is informal and a new national postcode system, although designed, has yet to be signed into law.
The CDB decided that the best way forward was to set up the Fingal Data Hub (http://www.fdb.ie/fingaldatahub). The Fingal Data Hub is a technical interface that allows the member agencies of the Fingal Development Board to share and publish anonymised administrative data and official statistics.
One of the first data projects involved the Department of Social Protection which has responsibility for social welfare services in Ireland. At the time the project started there was no linkage between geocoded data and the claimant register. It took six months to match the two and the full dataset was made available for the first time in 2010.
Meeting the need
The new data set data was used to create a report which was made available on the Data Hub. Ciarán Staunton, Administrative Officer, at Fingal County Council says that this report gave some useful insight because it showed that areas where there was new housing were likely to be unemployment hotspots.