The Role of Technology in Delivering Modern Services

The way that government delivers services to citizens is rapidly changing. Services are now being delivered across sectors and changing the role of government. Today, technology is an essential component to delivering services to citizens. Information technology tools are used throughout the entire lifecycle of delivering services. From the onset, IT is used to track funding, disburse benefits, establish eligibility, program management, and the list continues. Without technology, services cannot be delivered in a modern way to clients.

An IBM report, The IBM Social Program Integrity Framework: fight fraud and error with analytics in the public sector, indicates that globally, the world generates 276 exabytes of information once every eight weeks. This volume of data would be enough “to create a stack of 404 billion CD-ROMS that reach from the earth to the moon and a quarter of that distance beyond,” the report said.

This statistic indicates the vast amounts of data that is managed and stored by agencies, and the challenges to create actionable insights. With the volume of data created, agencies have sought to unlock the potential of data to improve efficiencies and to fight waste, fraud and abuse. The report notes:

  • U.S. federal agencies reported a government-wide improper payment rate of 4.69% totaling about $115 billion in FY 2011
  • In Australia, Centrelink fraud investigations uncovered $1.4b in overpayments between 2006 and 2009
  • Every year in the UK, fraud and error cost public services an estimated £31 billion

The challenge for public sector institutions is now to lower costs and to improve services with increasing demand. Even modest improvements and efficiencies can have dramatic impacts for agencies. One case study identified in the report is from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and shows how modest improvements as to how agencies leverage data can yield high returns for agencies. The report said:

“The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance uses advanced analytics developed with IBM to evaluate tax refund requests while the funds are still in hand, reducing improper payments. In the first six years, over $2 billion in improper tax refunds were denied. NYS Tax has also deployed advanced analytics developed with IBM Research that evaluate outstanding collections cases and determine the next best action to take to collect the funds. In its first year of operation, this new system has helped recover over $83 million in new revenue to NYS.”

New York City is not alone, other examples of agencies leveraging data to improve how services are delivered include:

  • State of Arkansas: The State of Arkansas has leveraged an IBM Smarter Cities solution as part of the state’s plan to modernize delivery of social and health care services. Using big data analytics, the new system will reduce time consuming processes and consolidate data across silos.
  • State of Minnesota: Using the IBM Cúram solution, IBM is supporting the design and development of statewide health insurance exchanges in the State of Minnesota. The IBM press release states, “The IBM Cúram solution will allow the state to improve statewide health insurance options and enable citizens to determine eligibility for expanded Medicaid coverage and tax credits for various insurance plans. The solution incorporates new income standards and manages the capture and storage of IRS income data, streamlining the eligibility and verification process for citizens.”

What has separated New York City, Arkansas and Minnesota from other states and cities as to how they deliver services? Below are 3 common themes:

1. Full View of Client

The case studies above created an infrastructure that allowed case workers and managers to take a full view of the client across programs, which allows them to be more responsive to each client, address common issues and deliver more efficient services.

2. Actionable Insights from Data

These case studies create actionable insights from data. Caseworkers look at volumes of data per day, and it’s important to know which data is valuable, and how to best leverage the information to improve services.

3. Collaboration Across Departments

Data for social programs exists across agencies and departments. The program managers for the case studies above were able to gather support across departments and truly create a data ecosystem that spans across departments. This is extremely valuable for agencies, especially to gain a full view of the client.

These three themes are not easy to achieve, but they are essential to transform the way that government delivers services in the modern age.

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The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

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