Data visualization lets users see the data in action
The National Board of Social Services overcomes complexity in the Danish social sector by collecting and visualizing information about all services available to its citizens. Users can access interactive visualizations and maps. The system is powered by SAS® Visual Analytics software.
The data bank has many audiences and many uses, including:
- All civil servants have one source of information for every therapeutic option and institution in the country, so they can easily find the right offer for a client.
- Health and wellness professionals have one unambiguous database that documents the results of all addiction therapies and facilities.
- Social workers can access information about experts and researchers regarding socially disadvantaged children and young people, all in one place.
- Citizens and journalists can be better informed about programs and facilities nearby.
These are just some of the important objectives Denmark is aiming for with the country’s new data bank.
Improving welfare and the effects of social programs despite shrinking budgets is a tough fact of life in the welfare state of Denmark. Rising demands for social services make the work even more difficult. Adding to this picture is the complexity of the social sector.
It was exactly the speed we demanded … It took exactly eight days from the time when the hardware part was in place until we had developed and published the first report on our website … I see this as a great success.
The road from political legislation to real outcomes and benefits for children, addicts and the disabled is not straightforward. Local authorities deliver nearly all social services, and they also manage independent institutions with social workers and professionals who are close to citizens and clients.
To overcome the inherent potential for conflicts and disagreements in this system, the Danish state has established a fact-based and national infrastructure for data about its social programs.
Opening up with visualization
“Benefitting from knowledge” is the motto of the National Board of Social Services, which brings with it a goal of benefitting society through data and research. The board’s task is to support Danish municipalities’ social efforts for children, the disabled, the elderly, and the socially disadvantaged, and ensure these efforts are successful.
The board, which is part of the Ministry of Social Affairs, strives to ensure that social intervention is based on knowledge of what works. Therefore, the data bank on the website is highly logical and a key component of the board’s knowledge dissemination to ministries, organizations, municipalities, consultants and all others with an interest in Danish social politics.
This year, the board has started using SAS Visual Analytics for the data bank, and the first clear effect is a more rapid dissemination of facts.
“We want to release data so that users outside the board also have access to model and create new insight,” says board BI Architect Allan Vestergaard. “With SAS Visual Analytics, we can provide data and tools for the users so they can work directly with our data bank, even if they are located elsewhere.”
With SAS Visual Analytics, we can provide data and tools for the users so they can work directly with our data bank, even if they are located elsewhere.
Portals of knowledge
The board collects data in a number of knowledge portals that other groups – including municipalities and institutions – then update with their data. For example, the offer portal delivers qualitative and quantitative data and practical information on 5,000 social services providers. This includes residential care facilities, residential institutions and treatment facilities.
Caseworkers in the municipalities come here to look for relevant programs and treatments for their clients – according to diagnosis, geography or cost. Other data sources include the Drug Addiction Database and the Knowledge Portal for Socially Disadvantaged Children and Young People. Data from these portals is placed in one data warehouse and used as the basis for the board’s quick visual presentation of facts for the public eye.
Board leaders know there are many different perspectives on methods, quality and good practice in social services. Therefore, they have worked diligently to create a common language through facts. Denmark’s national infrastructure is based on concepts that are defined by World Health Organization standards and interaction with professionals and experts. In addition, the standards are continuously evolving to reflect reality. One aspect of the work is a large element of deregulation, because the concepts are unique and represent a common reporting for both health care and social services.
Knowing the audiences for this information were varied, the board decided to differentiate the way information is disseminated to them. Some users benefit from adapting and elaborating reports, so the board offers them a variety of options to customize the information. Expert users can even tailor the way they explore and visualize data for their needs. SAS Visual Analytics is used for precisely this purpose.
Implemented in 8 days
“Our output is faster and more up-to- date, and in this way the technology contributes to solving our main task,” said Vestergaard. “It took exactly eight days from the time when the hardware part was in place until we had developed and published the first report on our website. We installed and configured SAS Visual Analytics and started working on our data. I see this as a great success. It was exactly the speed we demanded.”
The Board plans to extend the data bank later this year with multiple data fields and more reports to provide facts and knowledge for researchers, journalists and interest groups, thus contributing to knowledge-based social politics for the benefit of citizens.
- One source of information for every therapeutic option and institution in the country.
- A single database that documents the results of all addiction therapies and facilities.
- Access to information about experts and researchers - all in one place.
- Capability to collect and visualize information about all services available to its citizens.
- Users can access interactive visualizations and maps - and work directly with the data bank.
- More rapid dissemination of information.