Few organizations are better placed to capitalize on the potential of big data than public service agencies. Yet while these agencies are awash with information on their citizens, ranging from tax to pensions, and from housing to health, few are exploiting these "data lakes" to improve the lives of those citizens.
Accenture’s research shows 89 percent of big data users believe their work will revolutionize business operations in the same way the Internet has. For public service agencies, benefits will include increased engagement, enhanced service delivery, lower costs, reduced waste, improved compliance and even heightened national security. As governments seek to improve outcomes for citizens against a backdrop of cost pressure, big data will enable them to do more with less.
Each public service agency’s big data journey should begin with an evaluation of where its important challenges lie. Agencies can then begin to assess which data holds the key to solving them—and which tools and technologies will generate the actionable insight required for informed decision making.
Forward-thinking public service agencies understand big data is an organizational strategy, not an IT project. Achieving value will depend on changing the way the agency operates, with different functions collaborating to achieve holistic benefits as an empowered workforce, rather than moving forward department by department. New York City departments jointly developed analytics tools to reduce waste, improve productivity and compliance, and enhance public safety. Success ranged from a six-fold increase in the inspection hit rate of dangerous buildings to a tripling of the detection rate of bootlegged cigarettes.
Such work builds on the approach of large companies already achieving big data benefits. They focused on one particular area and then cascaded the results across the business. For instance, one large financial institution realized it needed new tools to perform real-time analysis on data coming into its online banking applications. It then moved to a similar overhaul of its credit card operations, before completing a full-scale transformation of its consumer analytics platform.
However, public service agencies cannot simply replicate the approach taken by their private sector counterparts. While people may willingly release personal data to get a better deal on purchases, citizens are wary of sharing data with government and hold public service agencies to exacting data security and privacy standards.
Agencies must balance these concerns against the value and potential utility of the insight on offer from agencies’ data lakes. Where trust and mutual benefit are established, the gains are exciting. For example, Accenture research shows in the area of VAT compliance, 83 percent of businesses surveyed would allow revenue agencies direct access to their data in exchange for a reduced administrative burden.
Confronting such challenges is now crucial. Those agencies that reorient their organizational culture to harness the power of big data will improve operational efficiency and meet their citizens’ needs, delivering public service for the future.1Big Success with Big Data, Accenture, April 2014
2Moving Past Mistrust: Revenue Agencies Partnering With Business to Close the VAT Gap, Accenture, August 2015