Advanced analytics opening up government innovation
Yigit Karabag, of SAS, explains how advanced analytics solutions are helping government organisations to find patterns and make better decisions from their big data resources
What role can analytics play in enabling innovation for government organisations?
As stewards of the public’s resources, state government leaders want to be able to prove they have used these resources for the services and programs that provide benefits to the country and people. One of the ways of achieving this objective is to create innovation centres within the government that allows discovering better ways of running various state operations. The success of this discovery process depends on the effectiveness of analytical capabilities within the innovation centre. We are long past the stage where the leaders were satisfied by merely looking at historical reports which show what happened without real insight. More predictive and prescriptive kind of analysis is in demand aiming to drive real innovation and real change for the state. The true form of analytics, as we at SAS believe is about looking into the future by making sense of the past. The real empowerment needed by today’s state leaders is the ability to accurately predict, forecast and act on various trends in the country at both micro- and macro-level.
Analytics, when applied properly allows the state to eliminate waste of resources and potential fraud as well as ensuring compliance and improving citizen experience. This is made possible by establishing a centre of analytics that will drive innovation with the right kind of technology, knowledge and talent pool put together to follow proven and repeatable processes including analysing government data. From proactive healthcare management to internal fraud detection, from efficient energy usage to public opinion tracking, SAS solutions support governments to gain actionable insight from vast amounts of data to drive innovation.
Are you working with any governments in this area in the region on analytics?
SAS has been working with many government agencies locally and globally to create centres of analytics in the areas of healthcare, security, utilities and executive departments focusing on strategy. In the UAE itself, we are involved with agencies from Dubai and Abu Dhabi including Dubai Health Authority, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi and several others from Justice, National Security, Health and Demographics.
Internationally, we are partnering with organisations to eliminate import tax fraud and prevent illegal trade activities by deploying predictive analytics in the front-end border operations. In healthcare, we have partnered with state health agencies and regulators around the world to analyse behavioural healthcare trends to optimise services and benefits, support preventive medical programs while eliminating fraudulent and wasteful behaviours.
Smart cities and internet of things (IoT) are another area where we collaborate extensively with governments. In the smart city of Cary, United States, we are working with the town authorities to provide a real-time view of public water consumption to help with usage efficiency. As part of the same project, we have also reduced the strain on public budget by eliminating manual meter readings. In Belgium, we are helping the public energy distributor with investment decisions on large-scale distribution operations. Furthermore, in the United States, we are working with Food and Nutrition Service which provides food to the needy citizens to detect people who commit fraud by selling their benefits cards, ensuring the effectiveness of the social service.
What is the state of readiness of government in the region to adopt advanced analytics?
We believe that the regional governments have reached a critical threshold where old-fashioned historical reporting is not sufficient for effective decision making. There is more and more demand in predictive and prescriptive capabilities and the legacy business intelligence solutions are not able to meet these demands. With the recognition of big data phenomenon comes the question of ‘How can I discover something in this ocean of information that will help us increase the effectiveness of government operations and provide better services?’ Advanced analytics is the answer to this question and in our opinion the regional governments are ready for the next stage of the information journey in terms of maturity of requirements, infrastructure and vision. We are yet to do a bit of work in closing the skillset gap when it comes to data scientists, the most critical role in the centre of analytics scheme. We are actively working together with regional higher educational institutes to close this gap and the indicators are positive, thanks to the fact that this challenge is being recognised by the national leadership and it is getting the right attention.
Are there any challenges to successful deployment of advanced analytics?
The biggest challenge is around the fact that the traditional government setup have created strictly controlled information silos in each function. While these silos are effective in addressing the specific operational requirements of the government function, most of the time, it is inconsistent with data residing in other state functions and only provides a partial view of the government information. This needs to be broken down and there has to be a framework for inter-government data sharing. We are already in talks with multiple state agencies in the region to establish an information sharing layer for all agencies to exchange data.
Yigit Karabag is Information Management & Analytics Practice Manager, Middle East, Turkey & Africa, SAS.