Due to the higher level of risks to be monitored during the winter, the UK Government Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) puts together a ‘Winter Monitoring Cell’ (WMC) to report on the various risks that may need to be addressed within the UK. This was particularly vital during the winter of 2020/21 with the presence of Covid-19 and Brexit looming.
The CCS required expertise in data science and analysis to ensure reporting was delivered effectively and accurately. To do this they enlisted the services of several experts, including SVGC.
The Civil Contingencies Secretariat, created in July 2001, is the executive department of the British Cabinet Office responsible for emergency planning in the UK.
As we know, Winter 2020/21 was a particularly intensive time within government, due to the added risks relating to Covid-19 and Brexit. Large volumes of data required collecting, collating, and analysing from many diverse sources that would feed into a centralised web-based dashboard that reported on potential risks. Expert analysts (20-30 initially) from across Government and private contractors were pulled together in order to report time-critical data and ensure the best possible decisions were being made.
The volume of data and variety of sources in which the Winter Monitoring Cell was required to record was vast. Varying from hospital bed capacity around the country, various economic indicators to food supply levels. All data required accurate monitoring to ensure any reporting of incidents were delivered in a timely manner to senior leaders within Government. As a result of the unusual circumstances, there were significant elements of the data which had to be integrated effectively leading to rapid innovation and deployment of data analytics techniques.
To ensure risks were being monitored and reported efficiently the WMC required development of new technology that ensured charts and data sources were incorporated into a central dashboard as well as the delivery of a gap analysis between the factors being reported on the dashboard, and those noted in the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) report.
With experience of working in many Government organisations SVGC understands the working methods and expected delivery. Combined with our technology engineering and data science expertise we understand large data analysis requirements.
Our data scientists demonstrated the use of new technologies to create visualisations in the dashboard directly, and show how the commentary text could be auto generated in many cases. This enabled WMC to reduce the amount of the initial analysts required, reduce the risk of errors and reduce the time in which data was collated and analysed for reporting.
We also provided expert knowledge in developing advanced Structured Query Language (SQL) that would transform data being held in the cloud into a form that the dashboard could visualise in its current format.
Working closely with Government departments SVGC developed technical solutions that were able to access new data sources and advise visualisations to detect and highlight potential risks. This enabled the Winter Monitoring Cell to respond more effectively and centralise the way data was received and analysed. Once the initial phase of response activity receded in mid-February the focus moved to a sustained version of the dashboard, with a view to automating as much of the reporting as possible.