An ambitious project aimed at shedding light on the performance of education, health and other public services across the North has got a major grant.
The initiative will involve a team of data journalists from The Detail, an investigative news and analysis website based in Belfast, partnering with voluntary groups to gain insights on issues affecting their communities.
The project has received a grant of £500,000 (€670,000) from the Big Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland.
Steven McCaffery, editor of The Detail, said the partnership would help community and voluntary groups identify gaps in services.
“The Detail has pioneered the use of data journalism in Northern Ireland, examining huge datasets on issues including education, health, the economy and the administration of justice,” he said.
“Our award-winning reporting has shed light on important subjects, but by connecting our data journalism to organisations working at community level, it can become a tool to be used to benefit the lives of people across Northern Ireland.”
He said a recent investigation into dementia care was an example of the type of work the project will involve.
In this case, data journalists mapped figures from every GP practice in Northern Ireland and identified a wide variation in the number of people diagnosed with dementia: “We were able to identify black spots where many people may be going untreated.”
He said a similar approach could be taken to a range of different areas of need. By using filters – such as access to transport or population density, for example – journalists and the community may be able to identify underlying issues.
He expects the project will yield at least 30 major data-driven journalism projects online over three years. These will include articles, videos, interactive graphics and maps.
The organisation will team up with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action’s 1,100 member groups to gain the skills to access information.