How Public Agencies Can Transform Their Relationship With Data?
Published on June 04, 2022
There’s no denying that technology has changed the world, and data has changed the way we do business in every industry.
But it’s also changing the way government serves its citizens.
With open data initiatives across the world, public agencies are engaging with their communities by helping make sense of the information that surrounds us all—and making it easier to find solutions to problems large and small.
This article describes how public agencies can transform their relationship with data and stay ahead of trends in technology and communication as open data programs continue to change our society as a whole.
Government data today is scattered, siloed and inaccessible
Government agencies have access to huge amounts of data—that’s a great thing.
But too often, agencies don’t know how to gather and present that data in a useful way.
Most government data is siloed, which can lead to several challenges and problems.
They also often lack access to data from other government entities or from outside sources.
While governments at all levels are getting better at collecting information, they still have a long way to go to make it interoperable and connected.
And public servants still have trouble making sure their information gets into the hands of people who can use it—citizens and businesses alike.
However, lately, some countries have begun to lead the way—making connected data a top priority.
In 2020, the UK published its national data strategy, followed by Germany, Estonia, and Denmark, among other countries.
How to deliver interoperable government data?
Interoperability is important for any data-driven agency that wants to maximize its impact.
While publishing open data to a central portal will always be a goal of government agencies, some agencies face challenges in reaching their audience effectively and consistently.
So, how can you prepare your agency to share its data openly?
1. Set a clear vision
If a public agency doesn’t have a vision of what you’re trying to accomplish, how can you make sure you get there?
By setting clear goals and targets (and, yes, even timelines), public agencies will be better equipped to navigate both their internal challenges and external obstacles.
It might seem counterintuitive, but governments should be thinking small when it comes to data innovation.
They should focus on a vision that is both clear and tangible so that they can see the benefits of change and then start taking bigger steps from there.
2. Build a scalable cloud infrastructure
While many public agencies already use cloud technology for daily operations, scaling your data storage can prove more challenging than simple file storage.
If your agency is ready to expand its cloud capacity and performance, start by learning how to build scalable cloud infrastructure.
Then, evaluate your current systems and needs before choosing a hosting company that fits both your budget and performance expectations.
Scalable cloud infrastructure is one of the most important elements in cloud computing.
Public agencies need to be able to scale up and down based on usage patterns and changes in demand, which means they need an elastic infrastructure that can expand or contract as needed.
This is especially important for government agencies because budgets are often limited, and demand can fluctuate greatly from month to month and year to year.
3. Establish a central agency for data
The public sector must continue to embrace new technologies and use them to its advantage.
Public agencies need to establish a central data agency that will help them transform their operations by providing services like analytics, visualization and data mapping.
This agency can also be used to educate citizens on how they can utilize these tools themselves to take a more active role in improving their communities.
It can create, guide and follow the rules for governing data.
It can also create a data-exchange infrastructure based on common standards, develop and operate systems that support collaboration between agencies and departments, and define best practices for data management.
Investing in technology and data analytics doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be more effective, efficient or accountable.
But we are at a time when governments are expected to do more with less and private-sector companies are gaining attention for their innovative efforts to drive business results.
During this time, officials have good reason to question whether they should expect more from their data and whether it’s time for them to reassess how they use it.
Ultimately, we all have a vested interest in making sure that data is driving smarter decisions about how we deliver services and enhance our capacity as public servants.
It’s time we give data—the new currency of government—the respect it deserves.
About the Author
Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.
He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.
After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.
He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.
As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.
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