July 1, 2014

How Data Analytics Can Improve Government Projects

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Although data analytics is mostly used by enterprise companies, the rise of Big Data and the need for greater insight hasn’t been limited to the private sector. It’s true that the public sector has been slower to adopt new technologies – Oregon tried to implement a health insurance exchange without project management software – but such organizations have data sets that are overwhelmingly huge, making them ideal adopters of analytics.

For example, the United Kingdom’s HM Revenue and Customs organization interacts with over 40 million customers, a pool that’s 12 million larger than the four biggest banks on High Street. Additionally, over six million people work in the UK’s public sector, each with complex work histories and performance measurements. Oregon’s failed attempt at public health insurance was targeting an audience of over 600,000 uninsured.

Suffice it to say, business intelligence isn’t simply for businesses anymore. Governments can use data analytics in the same fashion as their private section counterparts to drive down costs, improve efficiency, and uncover unexpected correlations.

Let’s examine several public sector use cases that dispel the stereotype of the government as a laggard in analytics technology:

Toulouse Turns Public Sentiment

Located in the southwest of France, the city of Toulouse features the fourth largest metropolitan area in the entire country, with over 1.2 million inhabitants. Recent trends in the city include significant upswings in information technology and electronics, which influences the tech-savvy nature of the locals. Consequently, Toulouse has implemented a number of technologies to optimize its delivery of health, education, environmental and economic services to its citizens.

However, France’s fourth city ran into a bottleneck when trying to adequately capture citizen responses and concerns. The volume was simply too large. To better address the concerns of its citizens, the metropolitan government began using natural language processing in the form of social analytics to aggregate social media and uncover public sentiment about city-related projects.

Using IBM’s analytics platform, Toulouse could account for both context and sentiment in their citizen’s social media content. The resulting insight helped local officials prioritize different issues as well as gain a greater understanding of how government communications were perceived by the citizens.

Using text analytics, the city was able to address citizens’ concerns about a major construction project by resolving traffic issues and other hazards around the construction site. Analytics also had a wider implication for Toulouse’s public relations as a whole. In the first year alone, the city analyzed more than 1.6 million comments, and pinpointed 100,000 comments that related directly to the city. This insight helped to significantly decrease response times. For instance, with road maintenance response decreasing from 15 days to 1 day – a 93 percent difference.

New York Improves Health with Ad-Hoc Reporting

Responsible for the health and well-being of some 8 million citizens, The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must utilize a robust system of information infrastructure that stores and accesses data from a myriad of sources. Noting their sister department’s extensive data capabilities, the Bureau of Informatics and Information Technology hypothesized that supplying bureau employees with easier access to data could improve overall public well-being. In this context, self-service reporting was non-negotiable, especially in light of the wide variation in knowledge level of users who would access the reports.

Although the Bureau of Informatics had an analytics platform in place, it wasn’t suitable to create the type of intuitive experience this project demanded. The Bureau went with Logi Analytics Ad Hoc platform to help department users – in this case synonymous with business users – create ad-hoc reports and dive deeper into public health data.

After training users on the specifics of database content and the features of Logi Analytics’ software, the Bureau essentially created a department-wide self-service analytics platform. With their new found skills, users have created over 7,000 reports and seen notable cost savings. Additionally, Bureau of Informatics employees have created reporting using Google Maps that highlight current cases of flu in school children, information which could have a large impact on public health in one of the largest cities in the world.

It’s undeniable that data analytics help businesses gain a competitive edge, but for governments, they could be central to revolutionizing the way public services are delivered. The previous two examples highlight how business intelligence can be used on a city-wide level, but no doubt other initiatives are underway with an even broader reach and more dramatic implications.

Public sector organizations have the data – it’s often mandatory for citizens to supply it – and are finally implementing the analytics technology necessary to transform said data into actionable intelligence.

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