Reimagining a data-driven future in the public sector

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Data is the foundation of government services and policies. In this world filled with data, the next big task for government agencies is to transform this information into detailed analysis and actionable insights. Recent investments into digital infrastructure have started the process, yet there are still many critical milestones for the government to hit that will transform the process. With the transformation rolling out over the next five years, here is what we can learn about the current state of our public sector and the impact we can expect to see. Parag Patki, Managing Partner of Consulting Practice at TCS ANZ, explores the future of data and analytics in the public sector. He details how digital innovation will turn the process of data on its head, making it the majority of what we do instead of the smallest part of our day.

Posted: June 2021

Q: How is Australia’s public sector approaching data and analytics? 

In response to Australia’s ageing population and growing economy, data and technology-driven transformation have formed the federal government’s  Digital Transformation Strategy Refresh foundation. The thirteen objectives outlined in this strategy outline how the government will accelerate change to support all Australians. 

In particular, the following key objectives will inform how the government approaches data:  
  • Objective 5 – Services will be smart and adapt to the data you choose to share
  • Objective 6 – Policy and services will draw on data and analytics
  • Objective 7 – Advanced technologies will improve decision-making and be transparent and auditable
  • Objective 8 – Earn your trust through being strong custodians of your data
Unlocking the potential of this data is essential for the government to improve services and solve complex problems facing all Australians.

Q: What are the most important factors for data collection in the public sector?

There are three critical pillars to data in the public sector - volume, velocity and variety. All levels of the government collect and store immense volumes of data, from tax records, healthcare to our education sector; this information is the backbone of our entire country.  

With the collection of data made even easier by technology, government departments now have unprecedented levels of data that they have to process and store. Currently, everyday Australians have access to more than 91,000 open-source data sets giving a glimpse into the scale of information that needs to be analysed. This data is also coming from numerous sources and in different forms. The biggest hurdle for the government is collating this data to provide insights across departments and levels, integrating legacy systems and preparing this information for action. 

Q: Hyperscaling technology providers provide the ability for businesses and departments to integrate data analytics faster than ever before; what is the first step that departments can take to ensure that they are on the right track to optimising their data analytics?

A significantly underestimated element of digital transformation is a litmus test of the state technology, data storage and interoperability already in place. Therefore, departments must take the time to understand, analyse and evaluate their existing technology to make sure they are taking the right steps to change. 

There is a risk that without understanding current systems, the digital transformation needed could be significantly delayed and increase costs exponentially. On the other hand, accelerating the push towards data analytics will provide significant rewards for all government agencies and policies addressing significant challenges in Australia. 

Q: What impact will wide-scale data analytic capabilities have on the public sector?

When government agencies have implemented a whole-of-government digital transformation, a paradigm shift in strategic capabilities turns the traditional approach to data on its head. 

Currently, around 60% of the government’s time is spent on gathering and preparing data, 30% on understanding the performance of the data and just 10% is spent on actionable insights. The shift to digital data analytics solutions across the government will see this time turned on its head with 60-75% of time spent on decision making actionable insights, 10-20% on understanding business performance and just 5-10% on readying the data for analysis. In addition, this change will see the benefits of digital transformation reverberate across all industries providing the essential insights that will enable the government to make changes.

We’re in the midst of radical change in Australia, dealing with the ongoing effects of COVID-19, a growing economy, increasing population and challenges in every industry. We need to use the information at our fingertips to inform our next steps and ensure we’re reacting and anticipating the actual state of our population, industries and businesses.

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