We are in the midst of a data revolution. From online shopping, to streaming movies to health activities recorded on our smart devices, the information we generate is shaping virtually every aspect of our private lives. Earth web estimates that a staggering 3.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated daily, and the average internet user produces 1.7 MB of data every second.
Simultaneously, the public sector possesses vast reservoirs of invaluable data, waiting to be harnessed to its full potential. Data, when properly utilised, can provide actionable insights, optimise processes, and enable automation to ensure better outcomes for citizens. However, the realisation of these possibilities faces a significant hurdle – the poor level of data sharing and interoperability among different systems and organisations including local authorities.
Unlocking the true potential of data requires a shift in mindset and approach.
By utilising data more effectively, governments - at local, state and federal level -can personalise services and provide targeted assistance that meets the unique needs of individuals. Imagine a future where public services can anticipate citizens' requirements, delivering timely and efficient aid that aligns perfectly with their circumstances?
A key factor in making this vision a reality is building trust among citizens. In our daily lives, we willingly share personal information with various apps and services, trusting them to use our data responsibly and deliver enhanced experiences. However, when it comes to the public sector, the same level of trust is not always freely offered. This lack of trust was one of seven key trends identified explored in detail in our recent GovTech trends report.
To overcome this apprehension, public institutions must be more transparent about their data needs, assuring citizens of the security measures in place, and highlighting the benefits they will receive in return. By explaining the value of data-driven services, the public sector can foster trust and demonstrate the potential for a more efficient, personalised, and citizen-centric approach to governance.
An essential aspect of this data revolution is effective data management and sharing within and amongst public bodies. Many councils currently hold data across disparate systems but are still in the early stages of embracing data warehouses or data lakes.
Adopting a more data-led approach will empower councils to capture and report on sustainability metrics effectively. A cohesive data strategy will not only optimise operations but also enable better decision-making, creating a solid foundation for a smarter and more sustainable future.
Panel discussions from the recent Public Sector Network (PSN) events across Australia and New Zealand have shed light on the path forward. A key takeaway is the need to prioritise dialogue and inclusion of both staff and citizens in technology changes, with a focus on process improvement. By involving all stakeholders, councils can ensure that technological advancements are not just imposed from above but are shaped collaboratively to meet the needs of the community.
Privacy and data protection
It's also crucial to consider data protection and privacy at the forefront of any move towards greater digitalisation. Collaboration and shared responsibility in managing data can mitigate risks while maximising the potential benefits of data utilisation.
Additionally, diverse options for accessing council services should be made available, recognising that not all citizens may prefer digital channels. By providing multiple avenues such as digital, phone, and in-person interactions, local governments can ensure that their services remain inclusive and accessible to all members of the community.
The data revolution presents an unprecedented opportunity for the public sector to transform governance and service delivery. By harnessing the vast amount of data at their disposal, governments can drive innovation, increase efficiency, and create a more personalised and citizen-centric experience for all.
Embracing this data-driven approach, fostering trust, and ensuring inclusive collaboration will be the pillars of success in unlocking the full potential of information for the improvement of society.
By Brett Barningham, Managing Director Local Government APAC at Civica
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