6 key ways government agencies can leverage their data

6 ways governments can leverage their data

As government’s begin to ride the wave of innovation, it will be important for departments across federal, state and local levels to make sense of these vast and complex new sets of information.

The ubiquity of data-driven insights can provide an invaluable understanding on how to improve service delivery by streamlining processes. But none of this really tells us anything else about the significance of harnessing big data properly, or how to move from owning data assets, to implementing meaningful changes.

Statistics show that only 25% of the private sector is able to gain effective insights from big data; so how can government catch-up and exceed the private sector if they are still lagging behind? This post will help you break down the biggest challenges of moving into the deep and complex terrain of data analytics in the public sector.

1. Realise access restrictions of digital data

Restricted access can be applied to stored data repositories, and access to such assets is usually password-controlled. Taking the time at the beginning of a project to implement data management procedures will usually pay off several times over by improving efficiency, protection and quality of data.

Inadequate preparation for data management can lead to issues later on down the line including loss of data and the violation of people’s privacy.

You can read more about managing restricted data in the post “Managing restricted data in an open world”.

2. Examine the ways data could improve service operations within your department

As technology changes the way people interact with government, there is no question that data will provide the insights departments need to transition to more efficient digital services.

The exponential uptake of mobile technology has revolutionised the way people interact with government departments. The ACT’s first Chief Digital Officer, Jon Cumming, asks whether or not government departments are too complacent when it comes to digital services, posing the question: “Are we not hungry enough for digital services?”

The new Department of Education app will eventually allow parents to see what catchment area their children fall into, making it much easier for parents to plan what schools they can send their kids to. These are the kinds of services that data can offer citizens in the future, and the potential for these projects is limitless.

Once you’ve determined what data will work for the changing needs of your customers, it would be a good idea to audit your business intelligence systems to ensure they are up to scratch when it comes to generating quality data.

3. Think digital: How can your data provide better services for your citizens?

The Chief Information Officer for the Singapore Government, Cheow Chan Hoe, states that creating smart nations is about “removing friction” for citizens. David Philip, Executive General Manager of Passport Services for the New Zealand Government reiterates this sentiment:

“The public doesn't care about who you are, they care about how easy the service is to access”.

Singapore provides a great case study for the successful implementation of open data to help create better services for its citizens. You can track anything from marriage rate by sex, graduates who received their first degree and what kind of course they attended.

Data can provide government departments with a story of what services are most in need. If you can create a service that has a high impact on citizens but is low in complexity, you can optimise tight budgets simply through insights gained from big data.

4. Be agile, be nimble: mimic start-ups

It almost seems like an oxymoron: government operating like a start-up. There are clear, fundamental differences between more traditional style government departments and successful start-ups that own beanbags for office furniture. But is the idea of government operating like a start-up really that far-fetched?

Turnbull’s innovation agenda is set to transform the way Australian Government operates, and its premise is exactly that; for government to become more agile.

Government departments need to become less risk-averse by creating spaces within their departments where new ideas and new ways of organising the institution can be experimented with.

Transportation in the US provides a great example of this, as large cities including New York, Chicago and Washington have begun to partner with the private sector to develop new approaches to mobility platforms. A book written by Gabe Klein, “Start-Up City: Inspiring Private & Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun” outlines the importance of ‘public-entrepreneurship, encouraging governments to run more like a midsize, successful start-up.

5. It’s just data: Don’t let it overwhelm you

Once you dive into the big data and analytics stream it can seem like unwieldy and dangerous terrain. Understanding how citizens are engaging with your department will enable you to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digital innovation in the Australian government.

If you don’t have the right staff to implement a data project, it would be worth investing in the right expertise. Not having the right data analytics professionals can really hinder the success of a big data project. Big data projects collect vast amounts of data in a very short amount of time, so be sure to build a team that has the right experience to process it.

6. Become a data master

Big data can seem daunting, but it is not out of reach for the public sector to implement projects successfully. Start off by managing your restricted data assets, and determine what data sets can best improve digital service delivery. Remember that everything you do should have the goal of removing friction when it comes to citizen engagement, and that it won’t hurt to become less risk-averse.

If you can achieve this, you will unlock untapped potential to create meaningful engagement with citizens: previously a task thought out of reach for the public sector.

If you would love to know more about how your agency can use technology to transform their services, then you should consider attending the eGovernment conference at CeBIT Australia 2017. You can get your tickets here.

*This piece was originally published on GovInnovate.

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