Analytics for better governance

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Sudipta K Sen,
Regional Director, South East Asia,
CEO & MD – SAS Institute (India)

Government authorities across the globe constantly aim at creating better frameworks to improve the lives of citizens. In an attempt to do so, government at all levels are facing similar challenges: declining tax revenues; requirements for maintaining high levels of service; and unprecedented demands for increased efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability. These challenges have existed since a long time and government bodies have been constantly trying to overcome them. However, in today’s connected age these challenges are becoming exponentially complex. For instance, social media has become an integral part of the social, cultural, business and political process in most parts of the world, affecting almost every facet of life – including criminality. Never before has so much sharing occurred between people of every walk of life. This requires government authorities to listen to conversations and derive meaningful insights in order to prevent threat, maximise benefits and deliver value to the citizens. This clearly indicates that today decisions cannot be made on gut-feel or instincts; they need to be based on facts and in near real-time. Driving a culture of data-driven decision making is the need of the hour.

Leveraging Analytics to Improve Efficiency
Most government organisations have mountains of data, thousands of metrics and hundreds of KPIs however, a major emphasis needs to be laid on tracking indicators that are meaningful. It is important to filter out noise and gain insights on understanding about how, why or if those metrics support strategic outcomes. As a first step, it is mandatory to create a single-view of data which essentially arrives from multiple sources such as income tax department, elections, universities, regulators, etc. This helps government organisations in reducing duplicate entries, eliminating bogus/ ghost entries and leveraging all relevant attributes of a citizen’s activity in a holistic manner. Clean and reliable data is an essential building block for running an effective analytics operation. To quote a relevant example, Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) – the nodal statistical body of the Government of Maharashtra, India uses SAS Business Analytics to generate and analyse key statistical reports through data integration, reporting and analysis.

SAS saves DES’ time, which was formerly spent on data management, allowing for more focus on critical research and analysis of data for effective socioeconomic decision making. While we speak of data, it is essential to consider one of the most important and major chunk of data – the user-generated data or unstructured data. It is the era of the connected citizen, people are texting, tweeting, logging, sharing and commenting. Accessible to millions of people both as consumers and, increasingly, as contributors, social networking and media websites provide a means of contact and communication between groups, some of which may have a serious impact on public safety. A piece of bad news has the potential to spread at unimaginable speeds. The sheer volume of the data, the speed of events and the relative anonymity of cyberspace presents huge challenges for public safety agencies. Lately, we have been witnessing such incidents in the Indian context too.

It is therefore essential to correlate the structured citizen data from internal government activities with the unstructured data generated via social and digital interactions. Authorities need to anticipate the use of social media to fuel unrest and incidents, especially around major events–concerts and sporting events, major political or economic summits, and elections. In addition to supplementing investigations and crime prevention, online and unstructured data can help public safety with a third objective: improved public relations. Just as private corporations monitor the sentiments of their customers’ online, government authorities can also keep a check on its citizen’s sentiments to track its own perceived value.

By monitoring constituent inquiries and the overall public pulse, law enforcement can make better informed policy decisions. Securing the homeland is one of the most complex challenges faced by nations today. Sharing and exchanging information and intelligence between security partners – at central, state and local government level – and providing a common operating picture of the challenges and threats is at the heart of strengthening disaster prevention and response capabilities. Government agencies are constantly challenged to derive actionable intelligence out of raw data, predict trends, trace eccentricities and forecast patterns. In an attempt to do so, government organisations need to move from a reactive to a proactive approach. Big data analytics empowers government organisations to leverage mission-critical data in its totality, derive insights, forecast patterns and predict potential threats. Insights extracted from data is a strategic asset and proactive analytics can help government organisations to make better decisions, reduce uncertainty, predict with precision, prevent cyber-attacks and select the best alternatives.

SAS – Providing software solutions since 1976
Through its innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 60,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know. SAS has been in India since 1997. SAS India operations are headquartered in Mumbai with regional offices in Bangalore, New Delhi and Pune

Bridging the revenue, risk and benefit gap
While ensuring public security and citizen safety, it is sacrosanct for government bodies to keep a check on their revenue framework. Consider, for instance – Tax. Across all levels of government, the tax gap represents billions of dollars of uncollected revenue that could support vital public services and help reduce budget deficits. Revenue agencies are under increasing pressure to reduce fraud and noncompliance, increase revenues and maintain service levels – all while managing the impact of legislative changes. At municipal, state or central levels, stronger audit and collection capabilities are essential for closing the tax gap.

Analytics solutions can bring dramatic improvements by better identifying where to focus resources and how to take the appropriate action to produce desired results. SAS also works with tax agencies across the globe. To quote a real-life example, consider The Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue. The department aimed at managing VAT declarations more efficiently; enhancing tax assessment and collection; improving compliance and implementing more transparent processes. With SAS’ advanced analytics expertise, within one year, they identified approximately USD 1.4 billion in under-declarations. It is vital for government authorities to plug revenue leakages, mitigate risks and deliver value to desired citizens. To do so, it is essential to empower users at government offices with tools that gives the user a single version of truth in real-time, quickly and easily. Advanced analytics and business intelligence tools does exactly that.

It enables the user to detect potential fraud, identify revenue leakages, manage risk and allocate resources for the right cause. To put this into perspective, consider another vital area for any government body – Public Healthcare. With the help of SAS’ predictive analytics expertise, The Aarogyasri Health Care Trust (an initiative by the government of Andhra Pradesh) lowers health expenses in the state, so more patients and diseases can be treated. The Aarogyasri Health Care Trust relies on predictive analytics to measure performance and keep expenses down. Claims, financial and clinical data are used in forecasts that ultimately root out fraud, spot disease trends, and lead to preventive health measures.

“While ensuring public security and citizen safety, it is sacrosanct for government bodies to keep check on their revenue framework”

Smarter Decisions, Better Outcomes
Big data from both structured and unstructured sources can significantly hinder government’s efforts to get to relevant data quickly and increase the chance that critical information may be missed. It is therefore essential to leverage data in its entirety rather than looking at subsets of data. Additionally, the insights derived from such data needs to quick, easy to understand and forward-looking. Such progressive insights can empower the policy makers to take data-driven decisions in almost real-time. SAS High-Performance Analytics empowers law enforcement, government agencies and regulators to gain accurate insights from big data in shorter reporting windows, thus enabling greater collaboration and more efficient, effective investigations.

With advanced analytics, government organisations can monitor more transactions and more risks in less time with a system that is powerful enough to run multiple scenarios and risk factors simultaneously without any performance degradation. To summarise, government authorities across the globe, including India, have huge amounts of data and in different formats. It is sacrosanct to create a standardised single-view of data, analyse social networks, forecast trends and derive meaningful insights in near real-time. This will further help government authorities in taking proactive decisions based on facts. Use of predictive analytics and self-service business intelligence tools has certainly become a strategic imperative to empower the users and policy makers. This approach can empower government at all levels to further increase efficiency, reduce costs, mitigate risk and constantly deliver citizen benefits.

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