Transforming government services through big data

Big data has the potential to create large-scale social and economic benefits for Australians in the way that governments both deliver services and interact with citizens

Big data analytics have transformed the way businesses identify trends, challenges and opportunities. As businesses transform digitally using these digital technologies, government departments face the pressure of following suit.

Big data has the potential to create large-scale social and economic benefits for Australians in the way that governments both deliver services and interact with citizens. The value of big data lies in the Government’s ability to deploy production-graded data platforms to identify analytical insights and make better decisions on a mass scale, processing and assessing the plethora of complex and highly personal data – particularly from the taxation office, welfare, health and education  – that most individual Australians interact with.

In late 2013, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) invited both private sector and government agencies to submit proposals for joint private-public projects (PPPs) to use its vast data holdings in innovative ways, as part of the big data Strategy.

The AGIMO pinpointed that data held by Australian Government agencies has been recognised as a national asset for many years, and big data Analytics had the ability to grow significantly with the adoption of new technologies.

Through big data analytics, government departments are able to offer services that meet the constantly changing needs of Australians and businesses, irrespective of budgets and increasingly complex disputes. big data has the power to help governments in a variety of sectors including infrastructure, transport, healthcare and education, and will only continue to grow in importance as technology advances and there is more data to process.

 Avoiding delays with big data

Infrastructure Australia predicted that the $13.7 billion cost of delays on roads in the six largest capital cities in 2011, if unchecked, would grow about 290% to $53.3 billion in 2031. By utilising big data technologies, urban and transport planners will be able to incorporate cloud-based solutions for better planning, market reform and a stronger pipeline in the initial stages of new projects. 

The disruptive use of government data is already evident in the transport industry. Real-time apps such as the NSW transport app tripView and Public Transport Victoria’s tramTRACKER, allow individuals to track the exact arrival time of a bus, train or tram based on real-time data.

In Canberra the ACT Government developed a real-time app to find vacant parking slots in the city. The insights gathered by these apps are proving to be incredibly valuable in terms of improving customer experiences whilst on public transport.

For example, tripView allows commuters to see how busy a train, bus or ferry is as well as monitor the popularity of transport services. The analysis of these can be used to encourage more services to satisfy customer demand as well as fix specific issues in public transport systems.

Is our healthcare model broken?

Healthcare has entered an era of major data transformation spurred by the use of advanced analytics and big data technologies. The catalyst for this transformation includes both the move towards evidence-based medicine and value-based payments.

 The incorporation of big data will enable healthcare providers to capture complete information about patients, give more comprehensive insights, accurately coordinate care arrangements, and even predict the disease state for both single and groups of patients.

There is a tremendous burden on the health and aged care systems, which currently represents 18.5% of government expenditure, and this is expected to almost double to 33% by 2050, according to Treasury estimates.

 With these expected increases in costs, it is crucial that effectiveness and efficiency in the healthcare space are prioritised with innovations such as personally controlled electronic health (e-health) records and telehealth already becoming increasingly popular in Australia.

 Educating the masses

 The Australian higher education system has also been investing in collecting and storing increasing amounts of digital information using big data applications. For example, national assessment schemes such as NAPLAN provide annual reports on student performance, and this type of data is released to compare Australian students against their global cohort.

 Institutions are increasingly looking to combine these data sources in ways that will help them to support their students in a more personalised manner.

In addition to information on student academic achievement, technology solutions can provide automated systems that track student timetables, record absences and provide other relevant information about a student’s performance based upon consumed institutions provided services, i.e. library services. In this way, big data can enhance student achievement by providing a wider view on the education system in Australia and increase institutions performances.

 The challenge of government digitisation lies in engaging businesses and individuals, as well as the governing bodies that support these capabilities. Governments have long captured public data and now they must work to put this to good use is the next phase of public service modernisation.

It is essential that the data used is anonymised and clear government policies on privacy are put in place. Sufficient IT security protocols must also be implemented in order to maintain the public’s trust in the Government’s ability to securely handle the data it stores and shares.

 With the opportunity to utilise the transformative power of this technology to deliver high-quality public services, driven by open data, citizens will be presented with more choices in terms of healthcare, transport and education. This will ultimately serve to boost the wider economy and increase the efficiency of government services and also allows for the government to share data publicly. 

Adrian Smolski is territory solutions engineer at MapR.

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