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Disparate Data? Don’t Despair

Our world is awash with data, and nowhere is this more true than in government, where agencies have collected and have access to mind-boggling amounts of information. But that information is often scattered, disparate, and difficult to interpret. So how can government make the most out of unstructured data, using it to uncover insights and aid in decision-making?

The recent GovLoop online training “Modern Digital Services Help Manage Unstructured Data,” hosted as part of Wednesday’s virtual summit, took aim at that question, and three experts shared their thoughts on how modern solutions are enabling unprecedented uses for data.

The training kicked off with Deloitte’s Bill Eggers, who took attendees on a deep dive into the capabilities of natural language processing (NLP).

“Lots of agencies are struggling with the same problem: making sense of huge amounts of unstructured text,” Eggers said.

NLP allows computers to do the work of sorting through this text, helping agencies “connect the dots and identify patterns in data” without requiring countless man-hours from busy employees.

By augmenting human capabilities with computer processing power, agencies can sort through large amounts of data in record time. Eggers noted, for instance, that the Food and Drug Administration has been able to use this to rapidly identify potential adverse drug interactions, and NLP has been used in the public sector to help predict and prevent crime and counterterrorism.

DocuSign’s Seth Engel was the next batter up, discussing how government today has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze unstructured data. The General Services Administration, for example, has used it to identify contracts that don’t comply with accessibility regulations, while the Social Security Administration used it to identify issues with appeals in disability determination hearings.

According to Engel, the Health and Human Services Department has also had success using AI to improve its processes, utilizing it to identify over $720 million in annual savings. By helping agencies manage and analyze vast amounts of data, digital services like these are saving the government money and helping it provide better, more efficient services to citizens.

Finally, North Carolina Deputy State Chief Information Officer and Chief Services Officer Tracy Doaks shared her thoughts on unstructured data and the services that are helping to unlock its potential.

“We want to use these new technologies to enhance service without any additional manual workflow processes or people involved,” Doaks.

She gave examples from her state, focusing on its application to criminal justice issues — for example, the capacity to draw data from agencies all over the state to create a more accurate profile of a criminal. In addition, Doaks said, North Carolina will soon be implementing advanced workflows focused on out-of-state sex offenders that would alert law enforcement to their presence in the state.

Projects like these are enabled by the existence of data, but just as importantly, by the ability to aggregate, process and analyze that data. Modern digital services are creating new opportunities for government to harness the power of all the information it collects, and in doing so, improving the services that can be provided to citizens.

This online training was brought to you by:


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