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Big Data ‘driving transformation’ across local government and health services

19 Oct 2017
Northern Ireland’s local government and health bodies are making major advances in developing new services and care models through the power of Big Data analytics.

Speaking ahead of today's Big Data Belfast conference, Senior Consultant at Smart Cities Team Belfast City Council, Deirdre Ferguson, said the value of data, the insights it provides and its potential to transform services will benefit the city’s ratepayers.

“The Smart Belfast team is looking at data and how unlocking and exploiting data can transform our services and help us address key city challenges. Smart Belfast has already helped us to identify new innovations in our local economy by sharing data and learning new insights in a way we hadn't previously,” she said.

Smart Belfast is a collaboration between business, academia and public bodies to make use of new technologies and Big Data to better understand and tackle urban and neighbourhood challenges.

Data shared during a recent SBRI initiative in collaboration with local SMEs highlighted the potential for councils and the NI Executive to draw in hundreds of thousands of pounds from commercial rates that hadn’t been drawn in before.

“This approach has not only helped stimulate innovation but supported SMEs in the development of new products that can be deployed locally and exported internationally,” she said.

Consultant Clinical Information Specialist with the Health and Social Care Board Dr Brendan O'Brien said that a range of data science initiatives are due to be rolled out over the coming months.

“A very exciting project in the pipeline has been created through seed funding from The Executive Office, Department of Health and from Atlantic Philanthropies. This will allow us to build on our data analytics capabilities and to look at the analytics we will need to have in the health service 10 to 15 years from now,” said Dr O’Brien.

“We are also working to join all aspects of the patient record across the health economy in order to create the most comprehensive picture we can of the individual patient to better meet their needs,” he said.

“The Board has also been working closely with GP practices across Northern Ireland to use aggregated data to better inform health service planners - so that we have better decisions around population health and what services we need to deploy in order to achieve improved outcomes.”

Another significant transformation programme, called Encompass, is being advanced by HSC NI which seeks to better position HSC NI to capitalise on digitally enabled whole system approach to the delivery of safer, better informed care. It aims to reduce unwarranted variance in care, remove paper notes and enhance integration between primary, secondary and community health and social care professionals.

“This will provide more information to front line clinicians at the point of care,” says Dr O’Brien.

The fifth annual Big Data Belfast conference - which takes place on Thursday October 19 at Titanic Belfast - aims to drive thought leadership and supply practical information for those who want to understand more about data and how it impacts our daily lives.

Both Deirdre Ferguson and Dr O’Brien are on the speakers panel which also includes experts from SkyScanner, Microsoft, Citi and Bazaarvoice. Local companies speaking include Analytics Engines, Almac, Automated Intelligence, Tughans and Adoreboard.

Belfast City Council, in partnership with Invest NI, recently launched the ‘Smart Belfast Collaborative Challenge’ which offers £25,000 to support networks of SMEs address significant urban challenges. The closing date for completed applications is Monday November 6 - find out more at 

The OpenDataNI Portal publishes datasets around various aspects of population health. To find out more, log on to

Big Data Belfast is organised by Analytics Engines and is supported by headline sponsors Citi, as well as Tughans, Bazaarvoice, Automated Intelligence and media partner Sync NI.
Big Data Belfast