The increasing use of data is rapidly transforming economies and societies and this scenario is posing a challenge for governments. Citizens are aware of the potential role that data could play in society and their expectations are growing along each advancement in this regard. In a post-COVID era, citizens demand solutions that not only offer assistance with legal obligations or formalities, but also anticipate and solve their needs in simpler ways. Going one step further, data could eventually contribute in the design of evidence-based policies and the forecasting of needs, strategically improving the allocation of public resources. Data could also generate public value by enriching the implementation of those public policies and services so that they become efficient and trustworthy and it would also impact in monitoring the performance of certain decisions.
However, turning data into valuable outcomes is costly at many different levels. Indeed, data-driven strategies should gather dispersed data policies, place an effort to publish data openly and establish a data architecture where not only standards but also interoperability and semantics are reflected in order to support integration. At implementation stage, the infrastructure to support publication and data sharing should exist and the necessary technology and tools should also be identified and developed. Another important aspect is public trust and how data are processed, thus these strategies should respond to concerns regarding ethics, privacy, transparency and security. Finally, it is very likely that different laws would need to be updated or new ones published in order to ensure that digital rights are considered. As a result, although some administrations prioritize agendas that include new data governance policies, 80% of government organizations are still at the initial or developing digital maturity stages according to some studies.
Although the evolution towards a more digital public sector began long before the pandemic, this situation was a turning point in the digitalization process as governments around the world had to adapt their most traditional operations. Nonetheless, many difficulties continue to be postponing the shift of administrations towards actual data-driven administrations. So, what does the public sector need in order to manage and process better and safer the data it gathers? How could tools such as artificial intelligence help achieve these ambitious goals?
Public sector: the challenges of managing the data of a population
Data that is managed within the public sector can take many forms and come from multiple sources. It can be gathered from an IoT device, hospital records or even from the own administrative procedures within the public administration, among others. The variety of data sources and data formats requires interoperability at different levels, both within public administrations and also with the private sector. One of the most efficient approaches to interoperability is the employment of semantic technologies and universal standards, which allows to integrate data, make them interoperable and transparent for end users. Transparency is another key aspect, since interoperability policies must also take into account data protection and privacy issues so that information sharing services gain acceptance and usage. Sharing common spaces of data in a specific value chain, known as data spaces, is paramount to transform these interactions and to guarantee data sovereignty, data interoperability and data re-use.
The technology selected to process this information should not only be secure and effective, but also capable of elaborating valid solutions that can manage such complex datasets. Although the number of solutions devoted to data analysis is constantly growing, the majority of options are currently facing the same main challenges. On the one hand, the available end-to-end platforms can hardly be customised for the specific needs of the public sector and, on the other hand, they are usually unable of providing comprehensive features.
Data-based technology to accomplish the digitalization of the public administration
Over the past years, most organisations have experienced some sort of digital transformation process. However, although the digital revolution is mostly being fueled by technology-based solutions, when it comes to public administrations these advanced solutions are insufficient to meet the specific needs of the public sector. In the meantime, the public sector could surely benefit at all levels from ready-to-use cognitive solutions, saving time and resources on multiple sectors, from health to education.
In order to gain artificial intelligence (AI) capacities, several governments have already developed AI national strategies that establish the path to innovation through AI. Certainly the application of technologies such as AI and big data allows to anticipate and draw conclusions based on information in a much more simple and productive way. This could in turn free public servants from repetitive tasks to valuable work, assist them in decision making, help improve engagement with the citizenship or build better public services and policies based on evidence and information. Studies performed by Gartner show that by 2024, 60% of government investments in artificial intelligence and data analytics will aim to directly impact real-time operational decisions and outcomes.
Public administrations need then a holistic solution that encompasses the process from end to end, a critical feature that makes certain data-based services the most competitive alternatives in the market. An end-to-end platform that manages the entire data cycle, from collecting to consumption, while also offering AI solutions developed ad-hoc to tackle the public sector issues that could help accelerate, anticipate and facilitate tedious procedures. Additionally, the platform should compile the new data together with the pre-existing information seamlessly, in order to provide administrations with a compatible, integral service.
The information gathered from the population requires tools that are specific to the public sector where security, ethics and transparency are more important than ever. These solutions not only serve the administration but also provide simple and easy-to-use services, which could result in what ultimately helps the public sector shift towards a complete digitalization. An advanced set of services that aims to reconstruct the relationship with the citizen, while also getting ahead of the problems that need to be solved.