VII. Open for Business, UK

 

Interaction type Public → Government → Public
Trigger Event 2015 UK flooding events
Domain Mapping of business locations post flooding event
Organisation(s) Dept for Communities and Local Government
Actors DCLG Communications and GIS staff. Local businesses in the North of England
Data sets in use Locations of businesses that are Open for Business after 2015 flooding
Process A simple ArcGIS online web map was set up for capturing the data. This was then embedded with AGOL’s crowd sourcing web map application template and a simple form created for capturing the relevant data.
Feedback From the get go there was excellent take up of this initiative and the map provided a useful communication tool for highlighting which areas were getting back to normal after the catastrophic flooding events
Goal To cheaply and efficiently obtain data from businesses in the North of England about which ones were Open for Business
Side effects The data will no doubt be skewed to the more digitally literate (and social media engaged) businesses and individuals. But a rough glimpse at the map shows that there is good geographical coverage
Contact Point Simon Roberts (now working for Improvement Service)

simon dot roberts [at] improvementservice dot org dot uk

During the December of 2015 heavy rainfall led to widespread flooding in many areas of northern Britain.

According to UK Met Office, several thousand homes and businesses were inundated with floodwater across Cumbria, with parts of Lancashire, Northumberland and southern Scotland also affected. Carlisle was worst hit by severe flooding from the River Eden, but many other towns and villages in the area were also affected by flooding, and tens of thousands of homes across Cumbria and Lancashire were without power for several days and a number of bridges were swept away by floodwater.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimated that its members will pay out about £1.3 billion for claims, however, this is not the only economic loss. KPMG UK reported that on top of the insurance claims there is going to be about £1bn cost for those “under insurance”, another £2bn needed for repairing flood defenses and the local authorities and government will need to spend £500m and £750m for repairing damaged infrastructure. Moreover, the changes within the insurance industry will cost another £500m, while costs to businesses from “loss of attraction” is estimated to another £50m to £100m. Further to all these, the Christmas and festive period spending was expected to be severely affected.

According to a report from University of Leeds, over 1600 businesses affected by flooding, 45% of all flooded premises suffered structural damage, 75% of flooded businesses lost stock and 46% of flooded businesses lost office equipment. Businesses with more than 20 employees experienced higher losses but for businesses with less than 4 employees the losses were twice as costly relative to their income, just during the Boxing Day.

In this context, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) aimed to cheaply and efficiently obtain data from businesses in the North of England about which ones were Open for Business. The GIS and communications staff at DCLG held several discussions regarding the design of the mapping application that could support this aim. Given the fact that DCLG was openly embracing ArcGIS online web mapping at the time of the national floods, they decided to trial their crowd-source data collection web mapping application to capture this data. This gave to the Department a very cheap and effective mechanism for capturing valuable information as to the state of certain communities. After several iterations the map design was approved and was released to the public. A simple ArcGIS online (AGOL) web map was quickly set up for capturing the data which played a key role in the success of the effort given the urged situation and the time constrains of the specific purpose. Despite the fact that the technology used was not specifically designed for a crowdsourced activity, it served perfectly its purpose. The application was then embedded with AGOL’s crowd sourcing web map application template and a simple form created for capturing the relevant data. The application helped businesses who wanted to let local communities and visitors of the area to know that they are open, customers who wanted to offer their support to their favourite business as it was trying to get back up and running and tourists who could see what is open in any particular area as they planned their holiday.

The mapping application was supported via a communication strategy and social media feeds. The whole effort was quickly embraced by local businesses. The initiative and the mapping application provided a useful communication tool for highlighting which areas were getting back to normal after the catastrophic flooding events. In just 3 weeks over 550 businesses had registered their details on the online Open for Business map while local authorities and ministers urged more businesses to get involved as it was realized that this crowdsourcing model helped the information to be added quickly all the time and thus giving an up-to-date picture of the reality on the ground.

Businesses that wanted to upload updated details regarding their re-openings or the services and products available could just use the online mapping application and complete a simple form with all the details including location and opening times. In parallel, a hashtag was used in twitter (i.e. #OpenforBusiness ) to further increase visibility.

However, it should be kept in mind that the businesses that were comfortable with digital means and social networks could take advantage of the project, yet no geographic bias was observed. Also, there were no quality assurance of the data being captured but DCLG GIS staff did had the capability to delete fake or misleading data.

 

Main lessons

  • In case of disasters, authorities might be overwhelmed with workload and thus crowdsourcing and participatory approaches might cover the gap.
  • Crowdsourcing data can provide an accurate image of the reality on the ground even in cases of disaster.
  • The ability to quickly set up mapping applications that will gather all the necessary information is fundamental for the success of the effort.
  • Poor familiarisation with technology might cause biases in the data.

 

 Resources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/floods-business-map-reaches-500-milestone

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/december2015

https://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/uploads/media/Economic_Impact_Assessment_of_Boxing_Day_floods.pdf

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/economic-impacts-of-flooding-in-the-uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/28/uk-flood-costs-could-be-higher-than-5bn-pounds-insurance

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