Making data serve society

Client Technical Leader for UK Public Sector, IBM UK Ltd.

Joining data across systems can lead to substantial benefits of many kinds. Such an approach has been used to avoid fraud and error by exposing illegitimate claims for tax breaks and for illegal access to benefits. It works by combining data about a person’s use of various services together, then looking for inconsistencies. Moreover, such an index allows civil servants to quickly and easily access information that can help them support citizens, and it simplifies citizens’ interactions with government by requiring them to tell the government only once when their personal circumstances change—such as when they change their place of residence.

Systems that provide such capabilities can be delivered quickly and pose relatively low risk. In part, this is because existing systems can be plugged into the system that builds the index, allowing quality data to be refined over time by being matched with data from other systems. The single view of citizens that results can then be used to automatically ensure legitimate access to government services by validating a citizen against applicable criteria during the online application process.

Joining data

In the field of law enforcement, matching data from multiple agencies allows people of interest to be identified and tracked. Such a system can help uncover evasion by criminals or simply allow agencies to share data while enjoying built-in data protection and access controls. Best of all, shared data remains in place, allowing existing lines of systems to continue functioning.

But joining citizen data goes beyond such an approach. The ability to join and search content from multiple repositories that contain structured data and unstructured documents helps do away with manual effort on the part of law enforcement that would otherwise be needed to identify illicit assets of immense value. Such a system can help accelerate investigations into organized crime.

However, the success of such an approach relies both on an organizational commitment to use such data and on understanding and buy-in on the part of senior management. Such an information management project must be owned by the entire organization—but when it is, cost savings and operational benefits can be substantial indeed.

Analyzing data

Many governments around the world are pressured to do ever more with lessening funds. In fields such as social services, crime prevention and tax collection, analytics is being used to preemptively target resources, reducing demand on resources to deal with consequences after an adverse event. For example, analyzing data about those who receive social care can help identify contributory factors to their current need, allowing identification of others who may someday require similar care. In, turn, this allows the use of social care expertise to avert such needs rather than merely mitigate their effects.

Success requires a recognition that technology is insufficient. More important than technology is organizational change, both of culture and of process. Indeed, the results of this type of approach about bring massive business impact through modest, but targeted use of technology.

Predictive analytics may readily be used to prevent criminal activity and discourage antisocial behavior. Recognizing indicators of crimes before they occur creates actionable intelligence that allows early intervention in operational processes and disruption of criminal activity. What’s more, analytics can also help judge the likelihood that a prisoner will reoffend after being released—thus creating opportunities to target support. can even be used to bring in taxes. Analysis of data from many sources can help predict whether a person will reliably pay taxes. Moreover, flagging and prioritizing suspicious tax returns and refund claims can help boost tax revenues and recover unpaid tax even while reducing investigation and collection workloads.

Serving society

When implementations of analytics are straightforward and targeted, they can allow quick realization of benefits. Governments around the world are using analytics for everything from security to social services, harnessing data to ensure legitimate access to services, efficient delivery of services and effective support of citizens.

For these reasons, among many others, governments must treat data as a first-class asset, striving to make data serve society. Learn more about how IBM analytics can help you use data in the public sector and join us for announcements and knowledge sharing around government solutions at IBM Insight 2015.