Driving better social outcomes in NZ through data and analytics

New Zealand’s ImpactLab CEO explains how government data and other information can be made available, analysed, and used to marry hard data and human stories to grow services’ impact.

maria english impact lab

Data and analytics as well as being part of an ecosystem rather than going it alone are key trends for IT leaders in the postpandemic business environment. One sector catching up to these trends is charities. Arguably, they have always understood the importance of partnering, but new technology used to drive better insights for the benefit of their clients is a new and promising field.

Maria English, who was named the Xero Hi Tech Young Achiever at the 2021 Hi Tech Awards, is CEO of ImpactLab, a New Zealand data and analytics organisation that provides charities and funders with the tools to measure their impact. The two-year old business was founded by a group of people who saw the potential for using the vast amounts of data collected by the government to improve social outcomes. One of whom is its chairperson, former Prime Minister Bill English (Maria English’s father), who along with other founders of Impactlab was involved in social investment work while in government. What began in the previous national government as the Social Investment Agency has since morphed into the Social Wellbeing Agency.

“The opportunity that they saw to bring that information out to the community. [The data] is there within government, but it’s often quite hard for people out in the community to use it or access it. That’s where New Zealand is somewhat unique in the world in terms of the openness of our public information,” she says.

Government, charity, and academic data use to drive insights

A main source of public data is the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), a linked data environment managed by Stats NZ. English says it contains anonymised longitudinal data about millions of New Zealanders and their path through government services such as health, education, and justice.

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