The Center for Digital Government recently released a research report questioning whether or not data analytics has delivered on its promise. This is an important and timely question to ask. Considering the recent data privacy issues with social media sites and the rollout out of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the EU, the practice of data analytics is coming under attack.
Like any technology, data management tools to visualize and analyze data can be used for good or bad purposes. By now, we’ve heard all about the abuses. However, the stories shared in the research report demonstrate that these same technologies can have a tremendously positive effect on the services provided to citizens by their governments.
The enterprising CIOs and chief data officers highlighted by the Center for Digital Government are true data champions driving digital transformations and their achievements deserve to be highlighted.
New Orleans uses U.S. Census data along with local housing data to assess the risk of fire fatalities across the city. Through predictive analytics, the New Orleans Fire Department can identify homes in areas of the city that likely don’t have working smoke alarms. The city then conducts a risk-informed door-to- door smoke alarm outreach program. These capabilities are now available nationally.
Chicago developed a predictive model for restaurant inspections. The program has been successful in predicting which eateries are more likely to have the most serious types of food safety violations. Using this algorithm, the city’s rate for finding violations increased by 25 percent, meaning that violations are found faster, decreasing the amount of time that customers are exposed to food borne illness. Multiple cities now use this approach.
Louisville publishes road closure data, which is consumed by Waze. Waze in turn shares data with the city including road conditions reported by drivers and other speed-related data. This data is then integrated with traffic sensor data to gain an overall picture of traffic in the city, leading to increased safety and better mobility.
Allegheny County, PA uses predictive analytics to improve call screening decision-making in the county’s child welfare system. The system analyzes four years of prior calls and examines 100 criteria maintained in multiple databases to determine the risk to a child in their home environment. This result is a determination as whether or not to send a social worker to investigate potential child abuse.
These are just a few of many inspiring examples around how data is being used across local governments to improve citizen services. These endeavors all have a few things in common. They support better decision making by government organizations with limited resources. While government is not a business, it’s clearly possible to leverage data analytic tools and begin to encourage governments to think in a more business-like fashion, doling out scarce resources in a way that will drive the best return for the tax payer. Also, these organization embrace open data and data sharing concepts to improve outcomes to drive private sector innovation and increase trust in government.
In short, these examples describe a strategic approach to data management. Before you can put a focus on your data management strategy, however, you need visibility into what data you have in your organization. Otherwise, your data will become impossible to manage and it cannot be the driver of innovation. If you take the time to properly visualize your data and all your information assets built from it, you can then protect, access, and govern that data to work for your organization, driving information insight into critical decision making, actionable programs and better citizen services.
The cities highlighted in the research report should serve as an example to all Public Sector organizations, and beyond, that data can be properly managed and then leveraged to make our world a better place.
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