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