There is rightfully a lot of hype around e-government. The application of analytics in the private sector has had a significant impact on our lives.
And, at first blush, it seems like a great idea for our governments to be more like Google or Amazon, using data and analytics to deliver improved services more cost effectively, when and where people need them.
However, while many of the benefits found in the private sector can translate directly to application in the public sector, there are hurdles our governments will have to clear that the Googles of the world simply dodge.
A lot is already happening in e-government. The Glasgow Smart City initiative applies a combination of advanced technologies to benefit the people of Glasgow. Traffic management, more efficient policing, optimising green technologies, improving public transportation and many other initiatives are all driven by the application of technology and data analytics.
We also see examples such as Torbay Council and the London Borough of Islington using analytics to drive efficiency in the delivery of services and to increase transparency.
Torbay Council makes available expenditure data on its public website to increase transparency, while using analytics internally to help budget holders run their services more efficiently.
The London Borough of Islington was able to save Â£800,000 annually by combining CCTV data with operational data to create dashboards that helped them to deploy parking enforcement personnel more effectively, as well as reduce ticket processing time from six months to four days.
On both grand and more pedestrian scales, analytics is improving public services.
The benefits of applying analytics in government are real, but the public sector should be cautious about simply taking the experience of the private sector and trying to apply it directly.
The public sector will need to carefully rethink the often adversarial nature analytics can take in the private sector. Amazonâs recommendation algorithms may be âcoolâ, but the algorithms are not your friend. They are there to get you to spend more.
Transparency and privacy are the two key concerns in which the public sector will not be able to rely on the private sector for innovation.
Data ownership, as an example, is an area in which companies such as Google and Amazon are not good role models. Amazon owns my purchase history, but should the Government âownâ my health data?
Amazon can use my purchase data for any purpose it sees fit without telling me who is accessing it or why. Should government CCTV data be treated the same?
This is not a good model for e-government to follow. In fact, the challenge was highlighted earlier this year by the Governmentâs surveillance camera commissioner Tony Porter. Algorithms are able to predict behaviour and automatically track individuals.
It is critical that the public understands how data is being used and participates in managing that process. This is where the public sector will need to drive new innovations, educating citizens and empowering them to participate in controlling their data and its usage.
In other words, delivering data-driven government while keeping Big Brother at bay.
Note: This article originally appeared in Telegraph. Click for link here.