When people think of data analytics, the images their minds often conjure are of its glitzy representation in popular media. They think of high-performance computing systems crunching through massive amounts of binary data, of fingers flying at keyboards at lightning speeds, of nifty 3D visualisations being analysed by a group of bespectacled researchers in white coats carrying tablets as clipboards. While all this – or something approaching all this – is no doubt an integral part of how data analytics works, what is usually missed out is what makes data analytics really significant in today’s day and age: its human impact.
Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Data analytics, according to the popular perception, is supposed to be all about keywords that describe what it does; seamlessness, cutting-edge, value addition, process optimisation, unparalleled efficiency, optimised resource utilisation are all bandied about by everyone, from leading industry experts to the layperson with an interest in technology. But once we look beyond the trappings of fanciful jargon, what lies underneath is a realistic view of how the intelligence and insights enabled by data analytics can help in defining government policies, regulations, and initiatives that have a direct impact on the end-user – in this case, the citizens.
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Extracting value from information: Data analytics and its role in enabling eGovernance
To better understand how data analytics can help in enabling smoother digital governance in India, we need to take a leaf out of the playbook of other advanced nations. A fitting case study would be that of the Fire Department in Austin, Texas.
Despite generating massive amounts of data, the Austin Fire Department did not have any kind of visibility on critical parameters such as team workloads, response times, training session completion, travel times, and types of emergency calls etc. This changed when the department decided to deploy Qlik to make sense of its data. The platform allowed everyone – from battalion chiefs and captains to lieutenants, specialists, and fire-fighters – to gain insights into their operations by visualising the key performance metrics and making associations between various datasets. Such was the efficacy that Qlik unlocked that the Austin Fire Department was able to free up an estimated $215,000 in payroll costs within the first year alone, along with almost 5,000 workforce hours spent in data compilation. The data-driven approach enabled by Qlik also helped the department in being better prepared for emergencies; with all the data right in front of the end-user, the department was able to swiftly allocate the optimum resources – from people to vehicles and equipment – for on-ground deployment.
Another prominent example of how data analytics can help in enabling better eGovernance is that of the Department of Employment in Australia and its flagship ‘jobactive’ initiative. The initiative, which operates out of over 1,700 locations, connects job seekers with employers across Australia. Needless to say, this generates a lot of information, given the number of job seekers and third-party employment service providers associated with the job active initiative. As the amount of information it handled increased, the Department of Employment identified another growing concern: many job active providers were unable to draw insights into their performance and understand how to better results.
The search for an analytics partner to manage the growing information database and extract relevant insights from it led the Department of Employment to Qlik. Leveraging Qlik’s state-of-the-art analytics platform, the department was able to deploy the first set of applications to be used by job active providers within three months – something of a record for a government organisation. Moreover, the interactive and interface was so easy to use, that it made it possible for all business users, regardless of their level of data competencies, to extract insights from multiple data-sets and compare their performance with others within the job active value chain with minimal hassle. This helped them in optimising their business operations, which, in turn, helped in unlocking more and better employment opportunities to jobseekers empanelled with the job active initiative.
Way to the future: Moving towards a data-driven culture of governance
Governments across the world today are sitting on heaps of information about their citizens. This holds especially true for fast-developing countries like India, which have been promoting rapid digitisation as a means of enabling better delivery of essential services such as banking, healthcare, education etc. to their citizens. Digital adoption has been spurred on by initiatives such as Digital India, which have been taking the benefits of digital technology beyond urban centres and making them an integral part of the everyday lives of people living in semi-urban and rural geographies.
The need of the hour, therefore, is to tap into the unparalleled opportunity that this information pool presents by leveraging data analytics to support and improve eGovernance initiatives. As India moves towards a more digitised future, data and information will be the foundation upon which its smarter, brighter tomorrow will be built.