3 minute read 25 Mar 2021
Rear view of woman waiting for train at subway station

Four ways governments can use data to transform outcomes

Authors
Amanda Evans

EY Oceania Government and Health Sciences Sector Leader, Strategy and Transactions

Sector leader in strategy & transactions. 20 years’ working in service system design. Passionate about helping disadvantaged groups. Lives outside Melbourne in wine country. Likes horse riding.

Oliver Jones

EY Global Business Development, Markets and Insights Leader; EY-Parthenon Global Government & Public Sector Leader

Passionate about providing outstanding support to governments and businesses. Deeply committed to excellence in public policy. Team builder. Mentor. Flexible worker. Loving husband. Father of three.

Thomas Bradtke

EY EMEIA Government & Public Sector Strategy Leader; EY-Parthenon MENA Strategy Leader

Over 30 years’ experience as an international economic development and growth strategist. Experience in developing and implementing growth strategies, new business models and operating platforms.

Contributors
3 minute read 25 Mar 2021

Governments have tapped into the power of data analytics to help tackle the pandemic. The priority now is to make it business as usual.

In brief
  • Pioneering governments are using data analytics to transform outcomes, but many others still lag behind.
  • A new EY paper argues that the key to realizing the full potential of data analytics is to build a culture that understands and values it.
  • It suggests four steps governments can take to create this culture – and start tackling deep-rooted problems in a cost-effective way.

Governments collect and hold more data than ever, and vastly improved computer processing power means they can extract insights that were impossible before.

Applying data analytics across the organization would therefore allow governments to allocate their resources better, lower their operating costs and meet the changing needs of citizens. Examples include:

  • Predicting who’s at risk of developing a chronic disease, and acting to prevent it
  • Predicting and preventing benefit fraud
  • Creating bespoke study programs
  • Improving public transport’s responsiveness and customer-centricity

Yet, unlike most parts of the private sector, many governments have yet to weave data analytics into everything they do.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged this status quo by encouraging governments to explore the boundaries of what they’re capable of. Around the world, they’ve been investing in digital technologies and data solutions as a powerful means of controlling the outbreak and helping their economies to recover. In a particularly exciting development, they’ve also been sharing big data across borders in a global effort to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and develop vaccines.

In other words, governments have proved they can use big data and analytics for the public good. But can they capitalize on this momentum to make data analytics part of business as usual?

No competitors, no imperative for change

In the private sector, data is already a source of huge competitive advantage. Start-ups have disrupted many established industries by designing radical, data-driven business models. Data-centric service providers such as Netflix and Alibaba excel at using analytics to improve their operations, target their products and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Unlike the private sector, though, governments have no similarly disruptive ‘competitors’ to provide the spur for change. The impetus must therefore come from within, responding to citizens’ demands.

That impetus is now gathering force. From Hong Kong to Switzerland, pioneering governments are harnessing data analytics to safeguard children, reduce crime, combat fraud and save lives.

We know that many governments would like to follow suit by using their data to make smarter decisions and deliver better services. But often, they see issues around data quality, sharing and trust as standing in their way.

People and culture are the barriers – not technology and data

A new EY paper – Big Bata, Big Outcomes: How Analytics Can Transform Public Services and Improve Citizens’ Lives – argues that these issues aren’t insurmountable.

We believe that the key to unleashing the full power of data analytics is to build an organizational culture that understands and values its potential.

Governments can take four steps to create this data-centric culture:

  1. Appoint a visionary leader who can elevate the importance of analytics across the workforce and give initiatives the best chance of success
  2. Enthuse and upskill all employees so they become more confident about using data insights in their everyday roles
  3. Adopt an agile approach to projects, based on rapid research, testing and prototyping, to learn quickly and trial new methods
  4. Partner with businesses, NGOs, academics and citizens to marshal and analyze relevant datasets, and find new insights and solutions

To unleash the full power of data analytics, governments should build an organizational culture that understands and values its potential.

The paper also includes examples of governments that are harnessing the power of data analytics to make informed decisions, become more efficient and improve quality of life for citizens. This power will only grow as datasets expand and technologies such as AI become more sophisticated.

  • Case study: improving outcomes for vulnerable children

    In New Zealand, EY teams worked with Oranga Tamariki (formerly the Ministry of Social Development) to support the transformation of the country’s child protection system. A predictive model of children’s life courses was developed, based on evidence of risk factors and projecting the outcomes from different paths. Covering all children aged 16 and under, the model draws on a longitudinal research and policy dataset that combines information from a range of organizations to give the Ministry a comprehensive view of each child and their family situation. The model also identifies avoidable fiscal costs associated with poor outcomes, thereby building a business case for early intervention.

  • Case study: simulation saves lives

    Using many years of incident records, EY teams built a resource simulation and incident response model to help an Asian emergency services provider plan ahead. The model forecasts five years into the future by looking at actual incident response performance combined with geographic and demographic data. It predicts likely incident patterns by day, week and month, and can break forecasts down by type – from heart attacks to cooking fires. This helps the organization to make the best use of ambulances and other equipment, as well as securing the investment to meet future demand.

The landscape for governments is always changing – so must they

Powerful drivers – technological advances, urbanization, demographic shifts, global health pandemics, geopolitical and environmental threats – are permanently reshaping the landscape for governments.

In this hyper-connected and fast-changing world, traditional solutions simply won’t work. Public bodies need to both rethink the way they deliver services today and plan better for tomorrow.

Data analytics can help governments to tackle deep-rooted, intractable problems in a cost-effective way. Now’s the time to start exploring how this core tool could change the world for the better.

Summary

We’ve known for a decade or more that data analytics can, and should, be used for the public good. The COVID-19 crisis has proven the point – and governments shouldn’t stop now. To become more efficient, make informed decisions and meet the changing needs of citizens, they need to weave data analytics into everything they do.

About this article

Authors
Amanda Evans

EY Oceania Government and Health Sciences Sector Leader, Strategy and Transactions

Sector leader in strategy & transactions. 20 years’ working in service system design. Passionate about helping disadvantaged groups. Lives outside Melbourne in wine country. Likes horse riding.

Oliver Jones

EY Global Business Development, Markets and Insights Leader; EY-Parthenon Global Government & Public Sector Leader

Passionate about providing outstanding support to governments and businesses. Deeply committed to excellence in public policy. Team builder. Mentor. Flexible worker. Loving husband. Father of three.

Thomas Bradtke

EY EMEIA Government & Public Sector Strategy Leader; EY-Parthenon MENA Strategy Leader

Over 30 years’ experience as an international economic development and growth strategist. Experience in developing and implementing growth strategies, new business models and operating platforms.

Contributors