Fake News Alert! Government Solves Welfare Problem…


Government Solves Welfare Problem with Big Data and Machine Learning

Some of you might be thinking, “Yeah right – government solving anything . . . never going to happen.” Some of you more optimistic people may be thinking, “Well why not? Technology is increasing at a rapid rate.” Whatever camp you’re in, the point is it’s not happening, or it’s happening but at a snail’s pace. While technology is rapidly increasing: homes are becoming smart, we talk to our phones, and we see new places through virtual reality. We aren’t utilizing these rapidly evolving technologies in one of the industries that effects our daily lives the most – the government.

My aggravation is why? When I worked in state government, I was very green – just out of college, taking law school classes at night. My boss told me to go figure out how to run government on a tablet. I started researching and looking at other state and local governments that were doing work in business intelligence, analytics, and big data. To my surprise, no states were doing an enterprise wide effort. There were pockets of cool innovation – public safety, infrastructure, health. But there were no holistic solutions to improving government by breaking down all the walls between agencies. I realize there are legal and privacy concerns especially because of politics. If Starbucks can know your location; Facebook can use target marketing based on your demographics, likes, and content; and Google can learn your pregnant before you tell people. Then how can we not find a way to save and improve lives with this same technology for the most basic human needs – housing, hunger, healthcare, safety, and jobs?

I get it. Technology is scary. No one wants government to be “big brother.” But should our fears keep us from improving and saving lives when we don’t have the same concerns about the private sector? I say absolutely not! Here are a few simple rules to get your minds going to make “Government Solves Welfare Problem with Big Data and Machine Learning” real news not “fake news.”

Rule 1: Just Do It

There’s a reason why Nike coined the phrase. You can’t lose weight or get in shape by sitting on your butt and not lifting anything but the remote. The same concept is applicable to making positive change in government or any industry.  You must act.

Let me challenge you: get an idea and go do it. Don’t let others stand in your way and say “that’s not how things are done.” “That’s impossible.” “You’ll never make that happen.” “That’s not your call.” Or my personal favorite, “But . . .” This headline is going to continue to be “fake news” until we step up our game and stop thinking about how things have always been done. The conversation must change to how can we make this happen?

Rule 2: Focus on the Why

There’s a very famous book: “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. The why behind an action or in this case an idea is critical to winning others over. (Also, see my blog on winning over opposition.)

It’s not going to be easy. Creating the first state-wide analytics hub wasn’t a breeze. I sat in front of a lot of firing squads. I prepared a ton of briefings, presentations, town halls, etc. where stones were thrown. I know some wrote me off as a green, wide-eyed, young optimist. I didn’t set out to prove myself to them. There were days I cried in a bathroom after being yelled at and dismissed.  But I focused on why I cared about the data platform, why it mattered. I knew if we could get it up and running, we could change how government ran, how services were delivered, how dollars were spent. We could improve lives and maybe even save them.

As human beings, and especially as public sector workers, we try and make a difference in our communities. We care and we feel “called” to help. Don’t forget that feeling and that drive!

Rule 3: You can Shoot for Perfection, but Progress is Key

@BillRMcDermott said “If we shoot for perfection and are willing to work hard at it, we might just be excellent.” This one is hard for a lot of us. I want to kick butt in everything from the concept to the execution. But I’ve learned the hard way that perfection can be the enemy to making things happen. Instead of obsessing on everything that is wrong, focus on what’s right and make improvements as you go. Set short term goals along the way. Show progress.

My challenge to you is don’t let the naysayers wear you down. Take your Big Hairy Audacious Goals and make them happen! We can do it. We can improve lives and change the way government is ran. Don’t take no for an answer when it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let headlines like the one above be “fake news.”

Sara Marshall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). You can find her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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