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Can effective data management drive efficiency in African government?

Can effective data management drive efficiency in African government?

South Africa’s public sector faces constant turbulence, with widespread corruption, local inefficiencies and infighting across government. Last week, this culminated in the Democratic Alliance petitioning for an emergency election, with the belief that the majority of South Africans have lost confidence in President Jacob Zuma. While the public sector has a long way to go, effective data management has proven it packs a powerful punch in thwarting corruption and driving municipal efficiencies.

Analytics projects are transforming governments and the wider public sector across the globe,” confirms Jane Thomson, Managing Director at South Africa Qlik Master Reseller. “These projects significantly impact healthcare, education, public safety and employment – all areas where South Africa generally shows severe deficiencies. With the right data-driven culture, improvements in performance, reductions in cost and increased citizen engagement can become a reality.”

At Qlik’s Analytic Solutions for the Public Sector event, held in August at The Capital, Menlyn Maine, Pretoria, delegates were shown how global public sector transformation can be achieved through data. According to David Bolton, Qlik’s Global Industry Director: Health and Public Sector and keynote speaker, there are many opportunities to drive efficiency in government, if one can overcome the challenges of knowing where to start and managing the sheer volume of data available.

When considering where to start, Bolton confirms that spend analytics and procurement analyses are fairly straightforward areas to focus on, with the necessary data being readily available in most governments around the world. Social care is also a strong pain point, and one which can easily be addressed through data analysis.

The majority of government organisations typically rely on three types of systems. “The finance systems, that control budgets, the spend, and the performance around finance; operational systems, managing the resources availability, how to spend money, and the flow of resources to the public; and then, finally, staffing, which is a huge area of cost and potential improvements within the public sector,” says Bolton. “The question is, how do these organisations connect these systems to one another? This has really been the holy grail for data analytics in the last 20 years. Without that insight, it’s very difficult to know how to make improvements, and how changes in one area might impact the performance of another.”

Transformation in government is a critical path that is needed in most regions, whether to improve efficiency in the way they spend public money, to improve the quality of services available to the general public, or to find new ways of delivering services. In South Africa, Bolton believes the opportunities are enormous. Economic challenges can be addressed very directly by data and analytics can illuminate how public money is spent by the government, making it more efficient.

Corruption is a key challenge in governments around the world. Brazil, for example, has been riddled with corruption for many years. The country is taking a stand, and doing it with data. “We supported the delivery of a programme where they made their procurement data available publicly for the very first time. With the Qlik Analytics Platform, anyone (within or outside the country) can view the country’s procurement data and question it,” states Bolton.

This uncovered government departments that had spent more than $2,000 on a single bottle of water, because the supplier was able to fix that price. “With this publicly available data out there on the World Wide Web, it’s very difficult for them to hide corruption of that kind.” This means both suppliers and the government are more accountable.

Analytics can also positively impact lives in healthcare, public safety, education and employment. From the management of crime through predictive analytics, to social determinants to aid greater healthcare, effective education, long-term development infrastructure, and the strategic growth of the country. No matter the application, data analytics improve performance and reduce costs.

Bolton concludes with the notion that open data, and the ability to make valuable sense of the information shared, will revolutionise public sectors anywhere in the world. “I see open data as offering one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime. It presents a huge opportunity for governments around the world to share and combine the learnings they’re finding to improve the quality of service delivery, and the efficiency with which they can deliver their services.”