The volume of data created by governments is growing exponentially. According to a study by IDC, digitized data worldwide is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 the data we create and copy annually will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes. It is a struggle just to store it all, let alone make sense of it. It is incumbent upon governments to capture, organize, and analyze data in order to make smarter decisions. There is an enormous quantity of hidden knowledge locked away in data silos and obscure formats, just waiting to be released. Fortunately, there are data discovery and analytics tools now available that allow governments to organize and use their own data assets. The correct use of data will reveal essential information about the government ecosystem and help to positively transform it in the years and decades to come.
Governments have invested in data management systems and platforms to collect and operationalize their data. However, deriving insight from that data has been a challenge. Organizing and analyzing data within the government is critical. When brought together, this data provides a holistic view and enables effective action. In the private sector companies are moving rapidly to invest in the capture and utilization of consumer data to grow their businesses. Companies like Tower Data (former Rapleaf) and Acxiom hold information on as many as 500 million consumers globally. Government can also derive great value from the data economy, not just as a regulator but also as a significant provider and consumer of data. It is time for governments to realize the transformative power data can have in better serving its citizen-customers.
The public sector can and should be a leader in data analytics. From public security to public health, it is no longer necessary for governments to make decisions regarding the spending of taxpayer dollars based on assumptions and gut feelings. Data analytics will not only allow decisions to be made based on real-time facts, but will also facilitate the measurement of quality and performance while reducing costs. McKinsey & Co. estimates that by digitizing information, disseminating public data sets and applying analytics to improve decision making, governments around the world can act as catalysts for more than $3 trillion in economic value.
An example of data analytics’ role in government administration is the state of Indiana. There, Governor Mike Pence has decided to make data analytics the center of his long-term vision for improving the management and effectiveness of government programs by incorporating data-driven decision making to the state. Agencies have been collaborating and sharing data to improve services. Data sharing is not a common practice in government, but the State of Indiana recognized that sharing data was imperative to successful data analytics. Indiana’s government plans to use insights from analytics to help pursue six public policy goals: Increase private sector employment; attract new investment to the state; improve the quality of the state’s workforce; improve the health, safety and well-being of families; increase high school graduation rates; and improve the math and reading skills of elementary students.
8 primary steps that should be implemented to create a government infrastructure for data driven decision making
Identification and incorporation of all stakeholders and other relevant sources of data from both the public and private sector.
Capture of all stakeholder real time data via the shared and secured IT platform.
With the support of subject matter experts, (SME’s) develop questions and algorithms to be fed to the analytics tools.
Use analytic tools to transform raw data into usable information.
Use the resulting analyzed data to create new policies, decisions, and procedures.
Communicate new policies to the citizens and incentivize their use and application.
Receive feedback from the citizen
Data analytics certainly holds great promise for governments. Government leaders should own and embrace their data as a powerful management tool. It is a great responsibility to make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people and to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Data driven decision making will alleviate some of the pressure of this responsibility on the government executive and provide the relief of knowing that his or her decisions are made based on facts and quality real time information.
Jerry Pierce Jr. is Senior Vice President at Aegis Health Security, former Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and former Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey.