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How Government Can Turn Data Into an Asset

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, How You Can Use Data Analytics to Change Government. Download the full guide here.

Data analytics has long been a buzzword for government and the public sector. It’s used in a number of ways to better serve citizens. But despite its growing popularity, government continues to face many challenges with data analytics. Given the vast quantity of data out there and the cost of management and analytical processes, many agencies have yet to transform data analytics into a real asset.

Why is this? First, government organizations face a huge challenge when it comes to integration and interconnectedness of data sources. Different data are stored in different data sources in a variety of formats, which makes it especially difficult and expensive to access, translate and analyze. The more variety of data sources and formats, the more costly it is for government to run analytics across various organizations.

Second, there’s the difficulty of properly publishing and disseminating data to their constituents – whether it’s the public, partners or customers. Transforming data to serve in a public, self-service capacity requires new technologies and new, innovative formats. When governments fail to provide accessible data to their constituents, they lose accountability and transparency in the public eye.

So how does government tackle these challenges and use data analytics to turn data into an asset? Dr. Rado Kotorov, Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President of Information Builders, shared how government can navigate these data analytics challenges and how Information Builders can help.

Information Builders is in the business of providing full information lifecycle management, which includes the tools to access, manage, analyze and publish data. “Where we help the most is providing platforms to publish this information to citizens and end users,” Kotorov said.

These platforms allow consumers to interact with the data, rearrange it, and customize it without having to learn new tools or install anything new on their machines.

“We try to make it easier for organizations to distribute analytical information to the end user without requiring any effort on the user’s part,” Kotorov said.

Sounds like a quick fix for these challenges, but what makes data analytics more complicated is that solutions often simply can’t communicate with each other. Kotorov explained the difficulty of achieving interconnected data through the concept of data warehouses versus data lakes.

“You have information in one data warehouse and different information in another data warehouse that is physically separated,” he said. “With a physical data warehouse, you could have many individual data warehouses and data marts and even many more Excel sheets and other personal data files.”

These physical siloes make it difficult to have seamless communication between an organization’s various levels of data.

That’s why many are turning to a data lake, which is one big data storage pool that houses different forms of data. “The data lake is a logical concept, that is why some people call it the logical data warehouse,” Kotorov said. “This approach helps you eliminate the silos, but it requires a very flexible integration technology that allows you to quickly access the different sections of the pool of data.”

In this manner, the data lake becomes a logical structure that maps how you can connect different sources and how you can get data from each source and combine them together. That’s why Information Builders also helps organizations combine their data warehouses into a data lake.

Creating data lakes, however, is only part of the solution. Kotorov says government also needs to focus on taking the following steps in order to fully utilize data as an asset:

1. Integrate different data sources within data lakes. This enables your organization to get more in-depth and seamless information from your data.

2. Maintain the data. Maintaining your data for data analytics is like maintaining the quality of a house. It needs to be routinely monitored, checked for problems, and repaired accordingly. This ensures longer data shelf life.

3. Analyze and publish your data. Organizations need to ensure they have the analytical capabilities to analyze and publish their data. When striving toward the final product, always keep the end user in mind. Manage the information to turn it into a product consumable by the citizen or end customer.

Stronger data analytics is done best when considering the ultimate consumer. That’s why Information Builders works to provide the tools and platforms necessary for government to facilitate better analysis, integration, publication and dissemination of data. This is critical to making data analytics more valuable to government agencies, more accessible to citizens, and ultimately, ensuring more trust between governments and their constituents.

What’s most important is that government continues to keep the consumer in mind when transforming data analytics from a formidable challenge into a valuable asset.

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