How govts should read data for better citizen service delivery

Governments today can shuffle through unstructure data across various systems to understand citizen needs and predict trends for better citizen service delivery. Here's how

Asoke K Laha | September 2, 2014


Predictive analytics is still a relatively new tool for government agencies. The ministry of statistics and programme implementation, for instance, still collects data on paper.
Predictive analytics is still a relatively new tool for government agencies. The ministry of statistics and programme implementation, for instance, still collects data on paper.

Predictions about the future with the help of statistical modeling, machine learning and data mining have been used in society and science for long. The question, however, has always been the accuracy of the predictions. And the answer lies in choosing the parameters of current and historic data so that predictions are as close to accuracy as possible. With the advent of machine learning, ability to mine enormous amount of data in a smaller time-scale, the predictions are becoming closer to the facts. Needless to say that predictive analytics is the future.

While the recently concluded FIFA World Cup 2014 ended with lots of excitement and disappointments, joy and tears, it also gives a fair indication of how far prediction software and algorithms have come. Microsoft’s Cortana, which is a digital personal assistant, not only correctly predicted the outcomes of all the 14 first-round matches but also the semi-finals and the finals. But it failed to predict the outcome of the Netherlands and Brazil match for the third position correctly. For the record, the Dutch beat the men in yellow quite convincingly. 

Predictive analytics software goes through immense amounts of data to identify patterns so that forecasting can be improved and services can be delivered in a more efficient manner. It can be an incredibly powerful tool, especially for government agencies to address the needs of the public.

Less government, better governance
Government agencies maintain enormous amounts of data in various systems and databases. Leveraging this information – about its citizens, projects, operations and processes – is important for improving public services, meeting transparency norms and efficient utilisation of resources.
There are a number of scenarios in which data can be used to support a more effective decision-making process. By examining current and past data one can predict trends, which can help improve operational efficiencies and the performance of programmes. Armed with this knowledge, government agencies could run specific schemes to help individuals become more economically successful.

Predictive analytics is still a relatively new tool for government agencies. The ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), for instance, still collects data on paper.

The ministry is responsible for compiling statistics on national accounts as well as conducting censuses. The department is also responsible for service-sector statistics to support high-level decision-making. Within the MoSPI is the national statistics office (or the NSO). The NSO is important, as it is responsible for creating and overlooking a database needed to study and examine the impact of specific issues for various population groups within India ranging from health and literacy to education and unemployment.

Data collection at the government level is still mainly a paper-driven process. Information at the district level, for example, is still collected manually. This makes the entire data collection process time-consuming, expensive and resource heavy. Despite the limitations, there have been efforts to automate the process. Some ministries – such as the housing and poverty alleviation ministry – are now using tablets for collecting data. Various states are also promoting e-governance initiatives to digitise the records of various government programs.

Trend, set, go…
Tanuj Nandan and Gopi Chand, who have written an insightful article on the application of analytics solutions in electronic governance, raise several key points on how predictive analytics can be applied in improving processes of governance. One key process is tax administration, which has presented many difficulties for India.

Tax organisations, in general, lose a lot of money through fraud, waste and abuse of unpaid taxes. For tax agencies, there is constant pressure for improving revenue collections and reducing operational costs. Just as analytics transformed credit risk management, it has the same potential for tax collection. By providing actionable information, analytics can help tax collectors reclaim more money and at the same time prevent fraud.

Another area where analytics can help is the subsidy programmes, which often fail to reach rural areas and real beneficiaries. Delivery can be improved by giving households a smart card, similar to an ‘electronic purse’, holding food stamps and education vouchers. Resources can be delivered to these smart cards directly without any bureaucratic intervention. By using analytics, decisions can be made in improving public goods and help optimise subsidy programmes.

Predictive analytics can be applied to the transportation sector as well. By analysing and predicting traffic patterns and growth, it can help improve transportation planning leading to decongestion of roads and highways.

Analytics can also be applied towards public safety and law and order. With the volume and variety of data increasing by the minute, solving crime and preventing it has become more complex. Government agencies must be equipped in handling and managing numerous data types.  By using predictive analytics, security analysts are able to detect patterns to suggest likely security threats or criminal activities and, in turn, relay this to the field so that officials are constantly kept informed of current conditions.

In the United States, predictive analytic products are becoming increasingly popular with law enforcement agencies as they help officials forecast ‘hot spots’ based on the time and location of previous crimes, combined with incident reports. Some claim that with these pre-crime detection technologies, one can predict when a crime will be committed before it actually happens. Other programmes seek to analyse behavioral patterns associated with criminal or terrorist activities.

Health departments can also benefit a great deal from predictive analytics. During the H1N1 pandemic, the centre of disease control and prevention and the national institute of health, both based in the US, used predictive analytics to track the spread of the virus in order to provide information for public health advisories and activities.

By using the enormous wealth of data in their hands and converting it into actionable information, governments have the ability to look towards a future where citizen services and national security improve manifold.

Laha is president and managing director of Interra Information Technologies.

This story first appeared in Magazine Vol 05 Issue 15(01-15 Sept 2014)

Comments

 

Other News

Terrorising the terrorists

One year has passed since the Modi regime applied shock therapy to improve the functioning of the Indian economy through demonetisation on November 8, 2016. Thus, legal tender to rupee notes worth 1,000 and 500 denominations was withdrawn and 86 percent of the currency went out of circulation. It was claim

J&K to get additional electricity during winters

In a bid to meet the increase in electricity demand of Jammu & Kashmir during the winters, the centre has decided to allocate an additional 792 Megawatts to the state. The allocation of power to J&K from central generating stations (CGS) is 2,397 MW. The supply would be given by powe

IOCL, IDCO ink pact to set up plastic park at Paradip

Minister for petroleum and natural gas, skill development & entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan has lauded the state run Indian Oil Corporation and IDCO (Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha) for signing a pact to establish a plastic park at Paradip in Odisha. Pradhan was speakin

RBI mulls whether to shift loan pricing system to external benchmark

An efficient monetary transmission is a sine qua non for the successful pursuit of its objectives by any central bank. Over the past two decades, it has been the endeavour of the Reserve Bank of India to strengthen the monetary transmission process, but these efforts have yet not yielded the desired result

Govt okays deputation of group A officers to TCIL

 The cabinet has approved the proposal for deputation of group A officers of department of telecommunications (DoT) and other ministries with telecommunication and information technology background to Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL). TCIL, a Miniratna PSU, is a premier telec

Indians want more military force in Kashmir: Pew

When it comes to dealing with the disputed border regions of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian public favours an aggressive stance, said the Pew Research Center, a US based think-tank. A 63% majority believes the government should be using more military force. Few say India should use less force



Video

Gujrat election – 70 candidates in BJP’s first list

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter