By Jeffrey Rhoda
Governments have always been great at collecting data. From the smallest regional municipality to the largest country in the world, public sector organizations cull vast amounts of information to balance the needs of their residents and businesses and ensure ongoing economic growth.
With the global economic recession lingering, government leaders are under continued pressure to make better choices, deliver results and demonstrate greater accountability.
Take, for instance, the data collected and utilized by government taxation departments. The reputation and integrity of an entire government can be at risk if the public questions the credibility of the data produced or processed by this department.
The Finance & Local Taxation Bureau of Ningbo, a seaport city in the Zhejiang province in China, was drowning in data – data that was mostly unreliable and varied. To remedy the situation, the bureau leaders instituted a new system that structures and extracts data in real time.
With the new system, the bureau is able to source data from other government departments, such as the central bank, and align it to internal data such as taxpayer compliance analysis, for example. In this scenario, government leaders can tailor services more strategically. For example, they can recommend providing more services to taxpayers with better tax compliance, and stricter management and more limited services to the taxpayer with a history of delinquency. This has led to more appropriate service delivery to citizens, as well as a reduction of about RMB10 million in data file management fees for the government.
Forward thinking and bold governments like Ningbo are being joined by others seeking to replicate their success. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. A recent global survey on Big Data by IBM shows that while 65 percent of government respondents reported either as having discussions about Big Data plans, or have active Big Data pilots or implementations underway, they are daunted by the realities of today’s Big Data challenges.
Year over year double digit decreases in responders who cite Big Data as a competitive advantage showcases that imitation is not enough anymore. Less traditional, unstructured and other newly sourced data—such as social media, geospatial location, voice and video—is on the rise. The competitive advantage of early adopters, and even success stories like Ningbo, which is centered on traditional data analysis, is becoming less relevant.
Savvy governments need to once again put Big Data atop their growing to-do list. Big Data and its corresponding analytics can make governments smarter, its operations more efficient, and its citizens safer and more engaged in governance.
What once was viewed as a bold move is now a necessity.