Serving the Public Through Data

Serving the Public Through Data

Digital transformation has been talked about for many years, but the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation journeys for many enterprises. Forced to adapt to changes in the  business landscape and customer behavior, businesses have adopted more digital tools and technologies to drive innovation and increase resilience. 

While going digital may be commonly associated with the private sector, governments and the organizations in the public sector have much to gain by going digital as well. In a world rife with uncertainty, governments need to ensure that their citizens’ health and well-being are taken care of even as they seek to keep their economies afloat. Among governments’ priorities are encouraging digital adoption, facilitating access and usage of relevant government services alongside enabling more digital transactions. This has made it imperative for governments to leverage digital technologies to become more agile and innovative and better serve their citizens. 

Digital Governments

Digital transformation in the civil service is not new; many governments have already embarked on their digital transformation journeys. Having started on its digital government initiative, the Singapore government recently launched a Digital Government Blueprint which outlines its plans to transform the country through technology within the next five years. Further down south, the Australian government has set up the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) as it works towards creating digital services that will benefit its citizens. The Indian government has also been working towards going digital with the launch of Digital India in 2015, a campaign that sought to provide access to government services electronically.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic placing extreme pressure on governments to deliver accessible and efficient services while ensuring optimal user experience, going digital is now a necessity and not a luxury. In fact, it has pushed governments to launch many nation-wide digital innovations at a speed that would have probably taken years had the pandemic not happened. 

Aside from delivering public services to citizens, digital tools and technologies can also be used to fuel important decisions and ramp up efficiencies in the public sector. Among the use cases for the government organizations that we are working on is one which leverages machine learning to detect fraud in payment systems nationwide. Through processing vast amounts of structured and semi-structured data, AI and machine learning enabled effective fraud prevention in real-time on a national scale. 

In another example,  the Singapore Accountant General’s Department turned to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in 2018 to audit payroll increments, performance bonuses and salaries. This resulted in staff spending more time on more complex tasks while also reducing human errors and security risks. By automating repetitive and tedious tasks, employees in the public sector are able to devote their time to higher-value work. 

Providing more value to citizens through data

As governments reexamine how they engage with their citizens and provide more efficient services in this digital world, they will also need to recognize the strategic importance of the data they possess. 

The pandemic has highlighted the increasing importance of getting the most out of the data a government has. Data can be used to solve many problems faced by governments, and in times of crisis, can even save lives. 

In Australia, the Government of New South Wales (NSW) is using data analytics to understand the impact of COVID-19, and also to make informed decisions driven by the data collected from across the state. This data allows the government to have a deeper understanding of the initiatives that it launches and their impact. 

The Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) has also used data to optimize operations during the pandemic. Its Office for Insights & Analytics (OIA) worked closely with SingHealth’s Covid-19 command centre to automate real-time dashboards. The dashboards analyzed data on the hourly clinical load at the hospitals’ emergency medicine departments and fever screening areas, which helped to prevent overloading SingHealth’s system and also provided timely attention to the more urgent medical cases. 

What is most important for governments to continue the momentum even as the world starts to recover from the impact of COVID-19. By continuing and improving their use of data analytics, governments can harness the true value of data to enhance citizens’ lives and capitalize on opportunities. 

The Singapore Tourism Board developed an analytics platform which collects and analyzes tourist data. By deriving actionable insights, retailers in Singapore can maximize their profits through optimizing marketing efforts targeted at tourists visiting the country. 

Through the sharing of data between government agencies, governments can greatly elevate the quality of public services and while making them more accessible. At the same time, this creates a layer of connectivity that enables a seamless experience when citizens engage with related services. For example, allowing healthcare providers across the country access to a patient’s medical records will save time and improve efficiency. This data can also provide crucial insights should a disease outbreak occur, allowing for an effective and rapid response to curb further outbreaks. 

With the amount of data governments have at their disposal, it is also critical to ensure that there are robust data governance frameworks in place. By providing transparency into the data governance process, governments can build more trust with its citizens as they understand how their data is being collected and used. Citizens need to know that their personal data will not only be protected, but used ethically. 

Data analytics can help generate positive outcomes for a country, its citizens, and its businesses. As more types of data are collected and from an increasing number of sources, there is much potential to be uncovered, ranging from risk management to a more active citizenry. Governments  need to ensure that a sound data strategy is at the core of their digital transformation journeys to reap its full benefits. 

Read more about how Cloudera supports a data-driven public sector here.

Remus Lim
Managing Director, ASEAN and India, Cloudera
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