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Restoring public trust around data

Restoring public trust around data

Originally posted by David Irecki @ governmentnews.com.au

A recent report found that only 31 per cent of Australians trust the federal government, while just over a third trust their local councils. Keeping citizens happy might sound easy, but it turns out to be particularly complex, writes David Irecki.

This is especially case when it comes to appeasing an entire community or nation with a diverse mix of opinions, needs and expectations; a nation that has become accustomed to the convenience of personalised services shooed in by digitisation.

This is precisely the challenge Australian government organisations are dealing with – from the federal decision-makers right through to the local council. In fact, public sentiment can be held responsible for triggering huge investments in comprehensive modernisation strategies. The pressure to deliver digital services, operate more efficiently, and meet citizen expectations has government organisations seeking the best ways to use data to engage with their communities as we drudge towards a future of Smart Cities.

Understanding citizens and their needs

Australia’s geographic composition renders ours an incredibly diverse economy. But regardless of the differences in their communities, there is at least one thing that all government departments have in common: the need to understand their citizens in order to provide the appropriate services to those demographics, however varied they might be.

However, while government organisations invest in modernisation to gain a 360-degree view of citizens, many face an unfortunate side effect: the creation of data silos. The move away from monolithic legacy systems to cloud-based, best-of-breed, multi-vendor technologies has created disconnected environments because many of those new applications were not developed to communicate with one another.

This leaves governments and councils in limbo; unless they can connect these systems and integrate and manage the data that resides in them, they can neither get a true picture of their residents nor consistently deliver the appropriate community services and projects in line with the changing needs of the community.

A pragmatic route to a complex problem

There are always going to be challenges with trying to integrate multiple systems. Historically, organisations have worked around this issue through traditional means – a lot of heavy lifting and tinkering with technology. Although this approach provided a temporary fix, it is too restrictive to support the digital economy, and has therefore paved the way for for more modern strategies focused on a cloud-based approach to this problem.

What does that mean for government organisations?

We can look to Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), the state of Victoria’s environmental regulator, for an example of how this plays out. EPA Victoria was able to develop a single, common understanding of what is happening across the entire state by using a cloud-focused data strategy to aggregate data from various sources. Some of these include third party organisations, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensors, drones and satellites. Because this process of integration to connect its applications was completed in the cloud, its modernisation was significantly easier, and delivered much faster.

Information for accountability

Without unlocking data, there are also no workflows, no notifications and no escalations, because the systems aren’t talking to each other. The resulting lack of transparency and accountability leads to irate residents as projects are delayed, requests and complaints cannot be addressed efficiently, and overall quality of life is impacted. Things might get done, but only with a struggle.

This was the experience of a large Queensland council, which, following a merger, was forced to rely heavily on manual processes which limited visibility into the data that represents its region. With its goals in jeopardy, the council modernised its systems and linked them together with cloud-based integration, a move that not only allowed it to accelerate the delivery of new services, but helped it save an estimated $1-2 million in productivity each year. The council can now proactively track everything happening within its jurisdiction, while easily validating its expenditures.

Completing the picture

Without integration, data becomes more and more fragmented. Councils wind up with multiple systems that each want to be the master of the data, but this normally results in redundant and inaccurate data. Through strategies that prioritise the flow of information through an organisation, we can bring related data into a central location and manage it, cementing its reliability.

The government organisations which have already introduced modernisation initiatives have quickly seen the value in having instant access to this trusted data. By synchronising all their applications with cloud-based integration, they have established a basis for modernisation in order to provide the services Australians want by looking at the data that represents those citizens, their interests, and their daily lives.

Trusted data is the goal in unlocking and unifying data. And with that trusted data, governments and councils have the visibility to operate with accountability, helping them win trust back from the people – at least in part.

David Irecki is Director of Solution Consulting APJ at Dell Boomi.

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