Data Insights, Not Ownership, Will Unleash Innovation

Author: Teresa Bozzelli, President, Sapient Government Services

Every January, entrepreneurs, specialists and innovators from around the world descend on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show to get a first peek at the latest innovations. Although many of the products and companies target the mainstream consumer markets, the potential impact -- both positive and negative -- on public service is unprecedented. Technology innovations coupled with better utilization of data can improve citizen services at a lower cost.

Potential barriers and opportunities specific to these new innovations are discussed and vetted during the CES Government Conference, hosted by the Government Business Executive Forum. This year, the conference focused on the application of these emerging technologies on public service challenges. Over 200 leaders from the technology industry and federal, state and local governments engaged in an open dialog focused on three keys themes: the internet of things and the power of analytics; global perspectives for policy, diplomacy and collaboration for safety, security and privacy; and the evolving role of data from acquisition to predictive intelligence.

A passionate debate centered on how to accelerate both immediate and long-term value by unleashing the transformational insight from data that the government collects and owns. However, a more provocative conversation addressed the value of “insight and impact” when government-owned data is overlaid with publicly available or commercially collected data.

As citizen engagement with digital technologies increases, especially those related to sensors and IoT, expectations of improved services, security and privacy also increase. With heightened anticipation of the value from digital connectivity and a consumer-centric model, governments understand that IoT is both a challenge and silver bullet.

However, questions arise around privacy, security and trust. Although consumers may openly share personal, demographic and geolocation information with a retail outlet, there is a much lower level of openness with government. Citizen service expectations can’t be fulfilled without balanced data usage policies and guidelines. Autonomous vehicles, for example, rely on data coming by the vehicles themselves along with commercially generated geolocation data. Government doesn’t own any of the data, but it must develop policies governing safety, privacy and security. This is an opportunity to ensure citizen’s safety with full transparency, all while also building trust and improving public opinion.

Technology is quickly outpacing agency abilities to handle the corresponding data. Public information is being collected at a higher rate than ever before, stressing storage infrastructure and cloud migrations, and rapidly driving up costs. Other challenges include outdated data retention  and privacy policies, which can engender a lack of trust between citizens and government.

Because so much data is presently warehoused, agencies are unable to mine the information, identify use cases or understand its value. Government leaders, however, are aware of these issues and understand data must be integrated into mission scenarios better.

From improved emergency response to security and safety of our infrastructure, borders and cyber assets, agencies are finding that data usage is more important than ownership. By leveraging data not owned outright yet commercially available, value increases.

Artificial intelligence is the only way to analyze and discover value at the speed and scale of innovation. AI can process large datasets from any source in real-time, creating an accurate, unbiased and clear understanding of the voice of the citizen, voice of the worker and overall situational awareness. Using natural language processing and causal reasoning to effectively maximize the data citizens have already made available, AI moves from only listening to responding and predicting. This increased level of visibility into current thinking and opinion allows for adjustments in approach, messaging and outreach.

As AI, analytics and IoT advance in their maturity and influence, public-sector policy on data usage will be what restricts innovation. Although they are already committed to maximizing insights gained from government data, agencies must move to using all available data. The combination of government, commercial and public data, tools and analytics will lead to “insights as a service,” which will deliver better public services with lower cost, less risk and more trust -- all at the speed and scale of innovation.    

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This article was originally published on Government Computer News.
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