India, today, stands at the cusp of an unparalleled digital transformation. Home to more than 462 million internet users and 300 million smartphone owners at present, the country has already wrested the mantles of the second-largest internet base and the second-largest smartphone market from the US. It is expected to be home to over 829 million internet users by the beginning of the next decade, as well as more than 702 million unique smartphone users. With public and private sector entities making their services more accessible digitally, consumers in the country are already adopting the digital medium for a vast variety of day-to-day functions at an exponential pace. From banking, sale/purchase, information seeking, and entertainment to passport applications and FIRs, everything can and is being done online.
This massive digital adoption gives service providers, government bodies, policymakers, and administrators access to an unprecedented amount of data, which can then be used to drive greater optimisation and unlock significant efficiencies across the board. E-governance, in particular, is expected to receive a substantial fillip from this enhanced accessibility to user data. But how can data facilitate better governance in India? To understand how data can redefine digital governance in India, let us first take a look at how various government bodies around the world are using data analytics to improve their operations and increase the scope of their functionality.
Improving data accessibility and literacy: How data analytics can power India’s digital leap
While we speak of how data analytics can change the way governments operate, there is also a need to improve data literacy across the country. The reason is simple – while artificial intelligence and machine learning can generate deeper insights into complex data sets swiftly and accurately, they cannot substitute the human factor from the decision-making process. Human intelligence and creativity needs to be augmented through data.
Take, for example, the current urban mobility situation in India. The poor mobility landscape in urban centres means that the country incurs expenses to the tune of $80 billion in environment degradation costs, in addition to massive productivity losses as a result of long traffic jams and poor public transport. Various efforts made to mitigate this problem – including the Odd-Even scheme launched in Delhi – have not yielded the desired results. Adopting a data analytics-led approach could solve this conundrum by analysing various data sets and historical traffic trends to generate useful insights about current as well as future on-road traffic. This data can then be passed on to end-users through a mobile app, which can help citizens make informed decisions regarding their route-planning. A similar approach can be taken to optimise urban parking, which is estimated to contribute anywhere between 20% and 40% to the overall traffic congestion in the country. Not only can this significantly reduce on-road congestion, but also encourage citizens to lead the changes they would like to see.
Efforts must therefore be redirected towards putting more data directly in the hand of end-users. Empowered with the knowledge of when and how to optimally use the information provided, what questions to ask of it, and knowing the extent to which the data is useful, citizens can then make informed decisions which can help in facilitating a high degree of self-governance with improved resource utilisation. India can probably take a leaf out of Singapore’s smart city playbook here. The island nation has made widespread governmental changes to make data and information more freely accessible and available to all its citizens, making significant headway in driving the success of its e-governance initiatives.
Known for decades as the largest exporter of skilled tech professionals, the country is finally gearing up to take its rightful place as the technological hub of the world. This paradigm-changing development has been driven in large part by the citizens’ readiness to adopt digital technology in their day-to-day lives, as well as the government’s focus on driving digitalisation across the country with initiatives like Digital India, JAM (Jan-Dhan, Aadhar, and Mobile), and Smart Cities Mission. These forward-looking campaigns have been playing a vital role in facilitating the migration of the Indian populace onto a digital platform. What they have also been doing is accelerating the amount of data generated across the country. The focus of all stakeholders in the e-governance ecosystem must be on leveraging this data to generate insights which can add more value across the entire value chain. Doing so can not only drive the success of these ambitious campaigns, but can also facilitate the realisation of the vision of India as a digitally-empowered, tech-enabled nation on the global stage.
Data as an enabler: The role played by data analytics in optimising government functions
In 2013, Qlik’s data analytics platform helped the police department in Malmö, Sweden, in cracking a high-profile criminal case involving a serial killer who targeted foreigners. Since the shootings were conducted at apparently random times and locations, the police were having a difficult time in identifying the killer. This was before they ran the case through Qlik. Using its patented Associative Engine, Qlik parsed through millions of records – including evidence like eyewitness accounts, interrogations, and previous incidents – to calculate and predict the next possible incident. Information which would have taken the police department months to manually interpret was analysed within a matter of hours and days to narrow the field down to a handful of suspects. This availability of information made it possible for the Malmö police to apprehend the offender at considerably lower expenditure of capital and time, and helped save several hundred man hours of labour.
The police force in Avon and Somerset Constabulary in the UK has also used analytics in a similar way. Employing 6,000 people, including around 2,800 officers, the territorial police force has an area of 4,800 sq. km and a population of approximately 1.6 million under its jurisdiction. The constabulary deployed Qlik’s analytics platform to optimise its resource utilisation and to serve the public better through proactive crime detection and prevention. With 24/7 access to highly-contextual real-time data, analysed and visualised in an easily consumable format, officers were able to respond to incidents faster and were better prepared, a point of difference that is extremely critical in high-risk situations. Suspect management also improved significantly, as Qlik helped officers in identifying and dealing with the top-thirty highest risk offenders in the region.
Security is not the only sector which data analytics is revolutionising. Various other public functions like healthcare and banking are also analysing complex data sets from across multiple information pools to derive pertinent, actionable, implementable insights that can enable operational optimisation for government functions. Frauds are reduced, service delivery gaps are actively identified and plugged, and better resource utilisation is enabled – all through the transformative power of data analytics.
Authored by: Souma Das, Managing Director, Qlik India