While much of the discussion regarding the use of analytics and data innovation is centered on private business, there is as much need for governments and organizations in the public space to use information in better ways.

Already, governments around the world are using open data sets to improve public access to services and information. The United States is leading the way in this regard with 112,000 open data sets, with Britain also releasing 19,000 of its own. (Australia falls behind with just 3,700).

The public sector is already reaping the rewards of data-driven innovation – it carries a significant share of the $12.6 billion in combined value of data-driven innovation across areas of public administration, safety and education, and health care and social assistance.

The potential uses here are tremendous. The public sector can use insights from data to decrease the cost of service design, planning and delivery. The US and Britain, both use a service which publishes and benchmarks contract, procurement and expenditure data from public sector organisations to help governments identify opportunities for collaborative procurement and asset reuse.

In the United States, the Washington Department of Transport saved $32 million over two years through cross agency collaboration enabled by this open data.

Governments using data to create better services

Some government organisations have been using data to improve not only internal processes but external products.

Queensland Health has already begun a statewide Clinical Services Redesign Program using a data-driven approach in order to empower and engage their staff to improve services. One example includes aggregating data sources in order to show a hospital patient’s journey on an Electronic Patient Journey Board – using data to visualise an entire patient’s journey end-to-end.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communications has developed a personalised learning program to support students with learning disabilities – teachers are given individual reports which place students on one of six spectrums, with additional information for follow-up actions.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection, which was previously titled the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, has developed a Border Risk Identification System in order to more accurately pinpoint potential problem travelers. The system integrates advanced analytics with passenger information from other agencies. The benefits include more efficient use of time and a saving of about $60,000 for every suspicious traveler rejected.

Benefits and changing the debate

The benefits from these changes aren’t necessarily recognised in economic output. Considerable value is realised through lower health care costs over time, while public organisations are able to become more efficient as the use of data increases. In particular, allowing the open use of data sets across data sets can increase efficiency through collaboration – The Washington Department of Transport saved $32 million over two years through collaboration.

Together, health care, public administration and education and training are providing more than 15% of data-driven innovation’s total industry value add. But there is always more to be done.

Government data has the capacity to enable innovation in service delivery models across a number of industry sectors, for example, data relating to spatial characteristic of geography. This type of government-held data requires a different decision framework when considering whether it should be released.

In 2013 a McKinsey Global Institute study found open data could add over $3 trillion in total value to education, transportation, consumer products, consumer finance, oil and gas and health care across the world.

While Australia has moved to release more open data sets, there is more to be done. In the United States President Barack Obama appointed a “data evangelist” whose job it is to increase public access to open data – this process could be co-opted in other countries including Australia.

Australia needs a strong leadership position to direct a change in this approach and direct the debate towards framing open data as a macroeconomic priority. Defaulting to open data will be difficult, particularly the impact of data is uncertain, but the potential benefits could be enormous.

To read more about the need for data-driven innovation in Australia, download your copy of the report here.



Duncan Stone

Duncan Stone is a director in the Innovation & Disruption and Economics & Policy practices at PwC Australia.

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