How Gov Can Get Actionable Insights FAST

Government reports often languish in perpetuity, stalling valuable information from making it into the hands of decision makers. But what if these critical reports could be generated, processed, and filed faster? What if instead of months or even years, agency reports could be processed in days or even minutes?

The great news for many state and local agencies is they can be. The key is for agencies to maximize the power of data analytics and the cloud. Agencies can deliver faster business insights with vastly improved query and report response times, backed by on-premises, cloud, or hybrid solutions.

At GovLoop’s recent State and Local Government Innovators Virtual Summit, we heard from David Gollob, Analytics and AI Cloud Architect at Microsoft. He argued that government can leverage the suite of Microsoft services to transform the way they report and create actionable plans. To prove it, he walked us through an example of how that looks in action.

Gollob started with a photo of a tree. It was a beautiful tree, and he admitted he was pretty fond of it himself. But, Gollobe quickly switched to a slide of a green, hungry-looking bug. That bug – a beetle – can lay waste to trees like the one Gollob showed. In fact, that occurrence is all-too-common in public parks and other government lands –­ and it usually happens at a massive scale, taking down hundreds of trees at time.

Of course, Interior and Parks government works attempt to prevent these beetle infestations. However, the process to do that is not simple. The traditional approach comprises five steps:

  1. Commandeer the experts. Insect and tree experts are gathered to survey the land.
  2. Identify the beetles. Those experts collect and differentiate insects to determine if the bugs are a threat.
  3. Record them. Beetle counts, locations, and other relevant information are manually recorded in spreadsheets.
  4. Analyze the data. Data analysts cull through that data to determine if there truly is a threat and, if so, on what magnitude it could cause damage.
  5. Prioritize eradication plans. Program leaders take those data insights and strategize which tactics might effectively quell the beetle infestation.

As Gollob pointed out, this approach is time consuming, resource intensive, and often ineffective at actually preventing beetle damage because it takes too long to execute.

But, by strategically applying business intelligence and development solutions to the process, eradication efforts can be revamped to be more efficient, less expensive, and – most importantly – effective at saving trees.

What Gollob exemplified with the “Boring Beetle Eradication” project, this smart approach to conservation looks quite different from traditional eradication processes:

  1. Everyone becomes an expert. Using an iPhone app ­– named the Boring Beetle Beat Down App by Gollob ­– citizens and park police can snap photos of these insects as they explore parks. The application can be quickly spun up using Microsoft development accelerators, without having to worry about standing up servers or developing custom algorithms. A developer can easily build and deploy the application so that users can begin helping in the preservation effort.
  2. Beetles are identified. Using cognitive services and machine learning, a system can be trained to quickly identify and differentiate problematic insects. Rather than having people cull through images, a centralized custom vision tagging system analyzes and sorts images of beetles.
  3. Records are contained. Azure SQL and location services makes it possible to put all your disparate metadata on tree populations, beetle counts, and other geographic characteristics in a single database. That information is catalogued and sorted, and then used to create a readable source of information for multiple users to access.
  4. Analysis is efficient. Using Power business intelligence (BI) self service reporting, data analysts can avoid the long hours of toiling through spreadsheets of data for insights.
  5. Priorities are evident. Those generated insights are consolidated and visualized in a single Power BI Dashboard. That single view makes it evident where, how, and when eradication errors should take place, instead of agency leaders having to guess what tactics might work. What’s more, the dashboard can even be published on citizen-facing websites, allowing agency leaders to use the project as a source of engagement.

This process is smarter, faster, and more effective. More than that, it’s replicable.

Whether your agency uses reporting to prevent beetle infestations or it uses reporting to stop crime, fight disease, or ensure infrastructure safety, it can apply Microsoft’s suite of easily deployable tools and applications to get the job done better.


Photo by Romain Peli on Unsplash

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