UK council puts citizens first with visual data and accurate analytics for detailed insight into local services performance
Qlik®, a leader in visual analytics, today announced the City of Wolverhampton Council has rolled out Qlik across the organisation to gain accurate insight into the performance of local services and, ultimately, see how they can be run more effectively. As part of a broader digital transformation programme, the city has rejuvenated its business intelligence and visual analytics capabilities. Building on its use of QlikView with Qlik Connectors and Qlik Sense, it is turning to data for insights that can inform everyone across the city – including citizens, front-line staff, suppliers, politicians and senior executives – about the provision of council services both now and in the future.
The city of Wolverhampton is in the West Midlands region of the UK. With a population of 250,000, the city comprises of a small area geographically, but is densely populated. One of the UK’s less affluent cities, there’s a strong demand for council services, with a lot of support needed by its citizens and local economy. The council itself has a workforce of around 5,000, all tasked with meeting the demands and needs of the people of Wolverhampton.
Approximately three years ago, faced with strict economic measures set by the UK government, management at the council were faced with a hard choice: either reduce citizen services or find a way to do more with less and improve them in the face of restricted budgets. Opting for the latter, it took the strategic decision to make better use of its existing data to see how it could run its services more effectively, as well as how it could better interact with the community and its neighboring regions. After conducting a comprehensive review of the solutions on the market, including Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, the council chose Qlik as it provided the most cost effective, yet comprehensive, solution. The council saw developed applications within six weeks of the QlikView deployment, using a six-week agile delivery method, allowing them to utilize and gain value from the solution almost immediately.
Now, the council can take disparate data sets from across the organisation and its different departments and integrate them into one place to provide a single view, so everyone from management to front-line staff can gain visual insight into the organisation. Data is analyzed immediately, whereas before it would take the council’s BI team seven days to run reports. And, without any form of human error, managers can be sure of the accuracy of the information they’re using.
Wanting to use Qlik to improve its customer services, one of the first applications it developed was devised to address this area specifically. The application is a performance-led dashboard illustrating and measuring customer services across the council’s entire communications channels. Data from all online interactions, any public surveys, face-to-face meetings, phone calls or email correspondence go into the app and is analyzed for insight into how and why citizens are interacting with customer services, what their requests are and how the council responded. Making use of Qlik Connectors, the council can also capture insight from its social media channels to see the quantity of interactions or likes, they’re getting from different posts and see what type of communications are resonating with residents.
In the future, the city will be looking to improve social care across the region by seeing how the local community can help with the provisioning of services. Looking at volunteer data, they’ll be able to cross-compare it with those in need of care and match the two up – tying the needs of the most vulnerable with the availability of those who are happy to support. This will both help to reduce the number of visits social workers must take on, while ensuring those who need care are receiving sufficient attention.
Beyond the initial project with QlikView, the council has extended its implementation with Qlik Sense, which, with its data visualization and guided analytics capabilities, will provide self-service BI to all City of Wolverhampton Council managers and allow them to make more predictive decisions around proactive planning. One application the council is looking to develop is aimed at reducing fly tipping. By considering geometric data around missed bin collections, the city would be able to see where they have data around missed bin collections and contaminated waste, for example. Often, if bins are contaminated and haven’t been collected, people will dump their rubbish elsewhere. With the Qlik Sense app, the city council will be able to see where fly tippers reside and how they can better support the bin collections around affected areas.
“When faced with strict economic measures and pressures such as an ageing population, we wanted to continue providing top notch services to our residents, but that meant doing more with less. We knew a way to do this was to make better use of the data we already had across the organisation,” said City of Wolverhampton Council’s Head of ICT, Andy Hoare. “Whereas before, line managers had to speak to the BI team to run reports and get any form of intelligence, they can now look at Qlik and it’s all there at their fingertips. Already we’re starting to spot trends in different data sets that we wouldn’t have been able to connect before we had Qlik– and it’s helping us see where we can be operating more effectively to deliver the best possible services to the citizens of Wolverhampton.”
Qlik’s UK&I MD and Country Manager, Simon Blunn comments: “We’re really glad that Qlik is being used to help keep services running at the same – if not better – level than they were before budget cuts. Given the current economic pressures faced by the UK’s city councils, they’re tasked with providing services wanted and needed by the public, whilst reducing costs. We’re looking forward to continuing to support Wolverhampton on their digital transformation journey – and seeing which applications and insights will come next.”
Oil prices hit 11-month highs on tighter supplies, Fed assurance on low rates
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose for a fourth straight session on Thursday to the highest levels in more than 11 months, underpinned by monetary easing policies and lower crude production in the United States.
Brent crude futures for April gained 19 cents, 0.3%, to $67.23 a barrel by 0400 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for April was at $63.30 a barrel, up 8 cents, 0.1%.
Both contracts touched their highest since January earlier in the session with Brent at $67.44 and WTI at $63.67.
An assurance from the U.S. Federal Reserve that interest rates would stay low for a while boosted investors’ risk appetite and global financial markets.
“Comments from Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, earlier in the week relating to the need for monetary policy to remain accommodative have probably helped, but sentiment in the oil market has also become more bullish, with expectations for a tightening oil balance,” ING analysts said in a note.
A rare winter storm in Texas has caused U.S. crude production to drop by more than 10%, or 1 million barrels per day (bpd) last week, the Energy Information Administration said. [EIA/S]
Fuel supplies in the world’s largest oil consumer could also tighten as its refinery crude inputs had dropped to the lowest since September 2008.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, is due to meet on March 4.
The group will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
Extra voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia in February and March have tightened global supplies and supported prices.
(Reporting by Florence Tan)
Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes
By Colin Packham and Swati Pandey
CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.
The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.
Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.
The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.
The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.
Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.
Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.
Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Leslie Adler, Stephen Coates and Jane Wardell)
OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting – sources
By Ahmad Ghaddar, Alex Lawler and Olesya Astakhova
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC+ oil producers will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, cut output by a record 9.7 million bpd last year as demand collapsed due to the pandemic. As of February, it is still withholding 7.125 million bpd, about 7% of world demand.
In January OPEC+ slowed the pace of a planned output increase to match weaker-than-expected demand due to continued coronavirus lockdowns. Saudi Arabia made extra voluntary cuts for February and March.
Three OPEC+ sources said an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day from April looked possible without building up inventories, although updated supply and demand balances that ministers will consider at their March 4 meeting will determine their decision.
“The oil price is definitely high and the market needs more oil to cool the prices down,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. “A 500,000 bpd increase from April is an option – looks like a good one.”
A rally in prices towards $67 a barrel, the highest since January 2020, the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery hopes have boosted confidence the market could take more oil. India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, has urged OPEC+ to ease production cuts.
Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) ends next month. While Riyadh hasn’t shared its plans beyond March, expectations in the group are growing that Saudi Arabia will bring back the supply from April, perhaps gradually.
Some OPEC+ members also anticipate that the Saudis will be willing to ease cuts further, but it was not clear if they had had direct communication with Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has warned producers to be “extremely cautious” and some OPEC members are wary of renewed demand setbacks. One OPEC country source said a full return of the Saudi barrels in April would mean the rest of OPEC+ should not pump more yet.
“The Saudi voluntary cut will be back to the market,” the source said. “I’m personally with no more relaxation, not until June.”
Russia, one of the OPEC+ countries which was allowed to boost output in February, is keen to raise supply and a source last week said Moscow would propose adding more oil if nothing changed before the March 4 virtual meeting.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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