These four ingredients are critical to digital government success

The very idea of how to provide government services is at a transition point right now. Part of it is demand. In an age where your citizens can order virtually anything online with a couple of clicks and have it delivered in two days, many dealings with government can seem straight out of the Stone Age.

Cities also have another reason to modernize. There is no more expensive way to provide services than through a walk-up counter or a call center. When budgets are tight, offering much better service at a lower transactional cost is a no-brainer.

But modernizing your service models isn’t simply a matter of throwing up a website or posting an app. To get people to find value from and want to use your digital services, you need four key building blocks. Council Global Lead Partner SAS explains them below. You may also want to check out the Digital Services chapter of our Smart Cities Readiness Guide. — Kevin Ebi


By Kay Meyer, SAS

It wasn’t that long ago when the very technology that is becoming reality in some of our leading smart cities was just a figment of our imagination – something you might see on TV or at Epcot in Disney World. Amazingly new and innovative digital government solutions are evolving every day to change the way we live and interact with each other and our communities. From parking apps that save time by helping us quickly find an open space to utility meters that manage efficient production and distribution of key resources by monitoring and detecting usage patterns to interactive portals that allow citizens like you and me to see and understand how government is effectively managing our tax dollars - technology is exploding with ways to enhance the quality of our lives.

And the life blood running through digital government is data – data that is growing at exponential rates. Data can drive amazing change in how we build efficient, sustainable, high quality of life communities.  But data that must be managed to ensure it provides high quality, reliable and secure information – data that doesn’t overwhelm but provides key insights to help us make the best choices.

So how can we build strong, comprehensive data management strategy to drive digital government? Here are a few things to consider:

Strong executive leadership
Digital government solutions need data – data sources that are sometimes locked away, that don’t talk to each other, or that are just being collected for the first time. Strong smart city leadership vision focuses on the possibilities of new data driven solutions – or more importantly sees the missed opportunities of not using data – when looking to use innovative approach to meet its community challenges. More importantly, strong leaders bring people on board, gaining consensus and building collaboration to meet a city’s key challenges.

Stakeholder involvement
Data is generally collected, cataloged and managed for a specific business purpose. So the digital government approach isn’t about collecting more data about a challenge that we already know about – it’s about ways to investigate broader sources of data for new insights so key stakeholders can take action to solve the problem. To get the greatest value out of digital government solutions, we need to build our data management strategy around the stakeholder’s business needs – what problems are they facing, what questions are they trying to answer, what data is needed to find, how, when and why do they need to see information? A city collects water meter data to manage water usage and billing – but by analyzing that data and combining with other community information, it is able to do so much more:

  • Proactively evaluate trends
  • Flag abnormal data points, or anomalies
  • Alert city administration proactively about possible failures in the water system
  • Identify the impact of major city events on water usage
  • Inform homeowners that they may have an unusual usage pattern long before their water bill sky rockets.

Governance
To have a data driven approach to support digital government innovation, cities need to know that they have data that is trusted, reliable, accessible and also protected and secure. A strong governance approach ensures that data moves through a data quality and consistency process, so users can clearly understand the meaning of the data and can have a high level of confidence in what the data tells them. A strong governance approach ensures that the data needed to support stakeholder needs is available at the right time and in the right way; for some business needs, data updates on a monthly basis are sufficient, while others require data refreshed real-time in a matter of seconds. Some stakeholders require data accessible from desktop tools, while other individuals need web-based access or access through apps on mobile devices. And finally, a strong governance approach recognizes the content and sensitivity of data sources, and implements controls to manage who and how stakeholders can use data, how data will be secured, monitored and protected, and most importantly how we protect the privacy of our constituents.

Integration
The successful implementation of a digital government data management strategy must consider the need for integration and collaboration. Often the data we need to understand key business needs is siloed in disparate business systems. But the challenges we face in making our cities smart, are influenced by many different aspect of our communities, our constituents and our services. The ability to integrate data from multiple data sources and accurately match information about people, programs, and even facilities is a critical factor to gaining broad insight into challenges and into the action that can drive real change in our communities.

Data drives today’s world in many ways – we have access to more information than ever before and innovation in digital government will rely on this explosion of data. To gain the greatest value and opportunity in digital government innovation, don’t forget the foundation - a strong data management strategy to help you transform your communities.

Kay Meyer is a Senior Manager of Industry Consulting working with the SAS US Government practice. She brings experience, best practices and strategies to help government successfully implement strategic analytic solutions including establishing Centers for Analytics. Kay has over 25 years of experience in information systems development and implementation across a variety of industries. Prior to joining SAS, Kay spent 18 years in state government and led the efforts in North Carolina to set the strategic vision, definition and implementation for the North Carolina Government Data Analytics Center. Prior to the GDAC, Kay led in the formation of NC’s first enterprise fraud, waste, and improper payment detection program, as well as the implementation of NC’s first integrated criminal justice system. Kay holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from the University of Virginia and a Master of Business Administration from George Washington University.