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Big Data: An Ominous Tidal Wave Or A Massive Opportunity For Government?

July 5, 2019 by Lape Runsewe

Big data: an ominous tidal wave or a massive opportunity for government?

Some of the latest data stats for our 21st century lifestyles are truly staggering. There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created by us every day – and with the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s only going to go stratospheric! Over the last two years alone, 90 percent of the data in the world was generated. (Source: Computer weekly). Where does this leave the public sector? There are a number of strategies that both central and local government can adopt to avoid being swamped by this data tidal wave and instead, exploit it as a massive opportunity:

  • Become pre-emptive rather than reactive – Predictive models, as well as other types of big data analysis and visualisation, allow governments to focus more efforts on prevention rather than on reaction and remedial efforts. This might include anything from managing adults missing support payments better to helping those falling into tax arrears earlier.
  • Use ‘nudge thinking’ – Sunstein and Thaler’s 2009 book ‘Nudge’ helped inspire the establishment of governmental behavioural economics units in the United Kingdom & the US. Combining behavioural insights with the latest in digital technology and big data science can take nudge thinking to a new level, enabling smarter decisions by citizens, groups and the governments that serve them. (Source: Nudge).
  • Create more ‘personalised’ government – A government with a strong data platform can shift from just providing services to creating more personalised citizen experiences. For example, Oracle uses the power of big data and behavioural economics to motivate people to save energy. It creates personalised energy reports that compare a household’s energy use with that of their neighbours, those living nearby in similar types of homes. The company has gamified the experience of energy consumption and encourages people to compare their household electricity use with their neighbour’s and allows energy users to complete challenges and earn points tied to reduced energy use. (Source: Deloittes).
  • Develop an API strategy – Creating any effective enterprise system today is more about creating systems of systems built around data exchanges with a common understanding of how that shared data is defined. Key to this are big data strategies built around application programming interfaces (APIs)—tools that allow one computer program to communicate with another. APIs enable the government’s core IT assets to be reused and shared. A UK example is the Floodalerts API which uses Environment Agency data to provide 15-minute updates about flood risk. (Source: gov.uk & Deloittes).
  • Form a data analytics centre of excellence (CoE) – Staffed with data scientists, information designers and cognitive scientists, a CoE can promote cross-government knowledge-sharing. It can share skills, tools, and techniques to meet the needs of diverse government departments. The unit can become an ‘innovation team’ for multiple big data challenges for priority problems across government, from drugs and fraud to homelessness and transportation. (Source: Information Age)

Big data clearly doesn’t have to be a tidal wave for government, rather, it’s more of an untapped, limitless resource: ‘…data is at the heart of 21st century government. It puts the citizen front and centre in public service delivery. It powers effective decision making on the front line. It makes government work for everyone, by better reflecting the world that we live in’. (Source: Cabinet Office).

How Digiterre can help

Digiterre delivers custom software solutions.  Our primary focus is large data platforms, typically involving integration of multiple systems to produce a “single view of the truth”.  We concentrate on the tough stuff: high risk, high profile projects with challenging time constraints.   We have a 19 year track record of exemplary delivery with some of the biggest global organisations.  If you find yourself with such challenges, do get in touch!

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