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World-leading data quality assurance project finalist in Excellence in Govtech Award at 2021 New Zealand Excellence in IT Awards.

The team behind the world’s first national roading performance reporting and data quality assurance tool was a finalist in the Excellence in Govtech Award at the 2021 New Zealand Excellence in IT Awards.

The Road Efficiency Group (REG) and Company-X were one of three finalists for the award chosen from many entries for a team or individual who achieved outstanding results through technology innovation in central or local government.

REG, a collaboration between Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and 68 road controlling authorities including Waka Kotahi, the Department of Conservation and city and district councils, commissioned a data quality benchmarking project designed to lead to evidence-led decision making in the transport sector.

Hamilton software specialist Company-X co-founder and director Jeremy Hughes led a team of software specialists in building the One Network Road Classification Performance Measures Reporting Tool (ONRC PMRT) for REG.

The reporting tool contains data for every road controlling authority in the country and road controlling authorities can run reports on their network characteristics, and compare them with their peers.

The data quality aspect of the project came out of an aeroplane conversation between Hughes and REG Data Sub Group chair Dawn Inglis when they imagined a future where users of the tool could interrogate the quality of the data behind Performance Measures reports and discover how reliable the data is.

Company-X was commissioned to research best practices in how to measure data quality and recommend to the REG Data Sub Group of industry subject matter experts how to proceed.

The Company-X team researched worldwide best practices for data quality assurance from world leaders. Hughes built a team, including an information science masters graduate, to research the best direction to take the data quality project. The team chose four dimensions, accuracy, completeness, consistency and timelines, and developed 63 metrics to measure and report on the roading data to ensure a successful data quality improvement program.

Company-X took an iterative approach to the project as it collaborated with REG and industry subject matter experts. The publication of data quality reports in the reporting tool changed the industry attitude and culture.

The REG project has taken the roading sector on a journey and significantly moved it forward in the area of evidence-based decision making.

A REG case study published about Taupo District Council concluded: “You need to get serious about data, or don't bother.”

Since its launch in 2019, every road controlling authority has used the tool every year to view the quality of data they are responsible for, assisted with or been involved in. Having the information available and understandable has changed the culture and the attitude towards data quality in the sector. An improvement can be seen in data quality metrics over five years.

“If you want to make objective decisions repeatably and deliver good outcomes for road users and communities good quality, assessable data is essential,” said REG programme manager Andrew McKillop.

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with this project.

“Being chosen as a finalist for the Excellence in Govtech Award demonstrates the value of the REG partnership and smart people working together when we have a clear vision and permission to develop.

“The ultimate success is the roading data quality assurance tool  is being used by every road controlling authority in the country to improve and the partnership is being harnessed to develop it further.”

“It’s been a fantastic project collaborating with REG and helping deliver its vision,” Hughes said.

“It is a prime example of how far you can go when you work in true partnership. This project is a real confirmation of what can be achieved in an iterative agile way with close partnerships and clear, absolutely unwavering direction.”

“The work REG is doing, and Company-X is supporting, is absolutely fantastic,” Inglis said. “There’s a real appetite in the sector to do this stuff.”

Local Government New Zealand deputy chief executive Scott Necklen said the roading data quality assurance project helped address high variability in service and costs across New Zealand.

“This project is creating savings through better asset management and procurement practice, making the dollar go further,” he said.

REG Chair and Waimakariri District Council Chief Executive Jim Harland said the tool delivered good quality evidence to the sector which was now using it improve the quality of business cases and benchmark data.

“We are clear on performance around different components in the network, we are clear on the value for money on the investment that goes in, and we have also got an understanding of how competent the sector is,” he said.

The Excellence in Govtech Award was won by the Ministry of Health’s Data and Digital Directorate for the NZ Covid Tracing mobile app at the IT Professionals New Zealand awards dinner at Te Papa, Wellington, on July 16.

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