How Governments Unlock Innovation With Big Data

Brian Roach

You’ve likely read many stories about how Big Data is transforming business processes. Yet the value of data analysis extends far beyond the corporate office. Government agencies, the armed forces, hospitals, and other organizations are all reaping profound benefits by collecting more data and leveraging it in new and exciting ways.

The corporate sector remains well ahead of government agencies in terms of incorporating data-based technologies. Yet government leaders recognize the strategic value of these technologies. According to a recent IDC survey, 50-percent of government organizations believe the Internet of Things will play an essential role in helping raise productivity and lower costs. These same organizations plan to make significant investments in data/IoT technology in the next 12 to 24 months.

Why governments should view data as a strategic asset

When it comes to private vs. public services, there has always been a split in terms of perception. The private sector is viewed as nimble, fast, and productive. Public services are often caricatured as slower, less innovative, and less responsive.

Today, however, increasing privatization and changing consumer expectations have changed the situation. Public entities are less insulated from private competition. Consumers, meanwhile, have been conditioned by modern technology to expect high-quality, responsive services. After all, we use things such as cloud technology and on-demand online services in our daily lives and take them for granted. When public services fail to deliver an equally seamless experience, it can be frustrating.

As the survey numbers cited above show, governments are cognizant of this. According to IDC data, 56 percent of public agencies use data for logistics, inventory, delivery of services and other operations. Another 23 percent use analytics for citizen services. An additional 21 percent report using data in accounting and finance. It is predicted that by 2019, fully 15 percent of all government transactions will have embedded analytics.

While overall progress can’t match that of the private sector, governments are focused on using data to transform and modernize their services. One example is the U.S. Post Office, certainly no stranger to private sector competition from the likes of FedEx and UPS. The Post Office, which naturally collects an enormous amount of data, is focused on using that data as a strategic asset.

Their goal? Packages delivered faster with fewer errors, creating lower pollution and higher cost savings. That’s a recipe that will please the public—and concern the competition.

Another example of data analysis in action

As we’ve seen, governments have a wide range of uses for data. One interesting example is occurring in the state of Indiana, where government officials are seeking novel approaches to a rising drug epidemic. Illicit opioid use, in particular, has increased exponentially in recent years.

Indiana officials at the state’s Management and Performance Hub program developed a creative, data-based approach to the problem. Their solution was a comprehensive data-driven management system that developed analytical insights from state crime lab data. By using data visualization, officials were able to create maps outlining the most serious drug use problem areas.

This system allowed officials to create a visual representation of evolving drug use trends. This kind of information is essential when deciding where and when to allocate resources. By using the data, officials were able to correlate a high level of pharmacy robberies with high drug use counties. Analytical insights also helped officials discover that not all state counties had sufficient drug recovery facilities.

How soon can governments leverage data on a broad scale?

Public services tend to lag the private sector in new technology adoption for a variety of reasons. Lack of funding, privacy restrictions, and limited competition can all result in a more incremental approach.

According to the IDC, 68 percent of government agencies lack analytic capabilities/expertise at the managed maturity level. Some agencies use data only at the departmental level. Others lack current data governance or security policies.

Despite these challenges, the results of the IDC should give us confidence that governments are keenly aware of the value of using data as a strategic asset. While adoption may come more slowly, it’s merely a matter of time before data analysis in the public sector has the same transformational effect as in the private sector.

The takeaway

Government organizations are typically slower to adopt new technology. Yet they, too, are in the midst of a data-driven transformation.

As Big Data technology matures and government adoption increases, we can expect greater productivity and efficiency, better services, more cost savings, and significant public health improvements—and perhaps the end of the caricature of governments being more inefficient and slower to innovate than their private sector counterparts.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation: Download The IoT Imperative in Public Services: Government and Healthcare.


Brian Roach

About Brian Roach

Brian Roach leads the Regulated Industries practice in the United States for SAP, which encompasses federal, state, and local government, as well as the higher education, aerospace & defense, healthcare, and utilities industries. He is responsible for leading strategy, business operations, customer relationships, and overall customer satisfaction.