Governance by dashboard

Data dashboards – interfaces which display complex data to a user, often displayed in real time, and typically drawn from multiple sources – are an increasingly important way in which government departments make decisions. However, dashboards signal a potentially very significant shift in the way government operates. While the opportunities are considerable, dashboard use in government does present several challenges.

This paper presents three principles that should shape any government use of data dashboards. Firstly, the purpose and use of the dashboard must be identified. In and of themselves, they are not necessarily the best way to understand all problems, and must be carefully designed to match real organisational needs. Secondly, the limitations of dashboards must be recognised, including their potential to mislead and misinform. Thirdly, to maximise the take-up rate among staff, they will need to be provided with training to understand the dashboard’s purpose, where the data is drawn from and the way that it is framed.

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