How Valuable is Data Analytics to the UK’s Public Sector?

Beyond the profit-oriented applications of data in the world of big business, analytics is also enhancing services and reducing workload burdens on employees in the public sector

Some of the latest deployments include MI5’s new data sharing scheme, which aims to circulate more information between organisations such as the NHS and the wider social services in a bid to combat terrorism. This highlights how data analytics is not only proving its value as a business tool, but is now seen as a versatile public sector asset.

With the UK government also extending its commitment to analytics by making satellite data available to tackle public sector challenges, data-led initiatives are increasingly being implemented to help solve core societal problems and optimise the efficiency of public services.

However, as with any project that has the potential to have a fundamental impact on the lives of the British public, there is of course resistance to overcome. After all, this is a complicate†d challenge, particularly when it involves tackling the national narratives of fear frequently over-hyped in the media, such myths around AI and other innovative technology.

In this context, to what extent can analytics be a vital tool when budgets are restricted, and the optimisation of public sector services is crucial for their very survival?

Safety-driven analytics

As an example, the use of data analytics in the police service demonstrates how analytics can work for the greater good. But aside from the politics, the deployment of innovative technologies can have significant implications for improving public safety if used correctly. For example, Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary has been successfully using predictive data analytics to help the understanding of risk and the prioritisation and deployment of resources to support early intervention activity. This work supports managing offenders, the protection of vulnerable people and the targeting of high demand areas in the community.

However, this is not representative of the wider public sector. For example, the latest research from Big Data London and Qlik showed that only 30% of public sector organisations are using analytics to help them understand the large quantities of data they are fed via their day-to-day operations. As these outfits face some of the tightest budget restrictions in their history, such as the cutting of 22,424 police officers nationwide since 2009, some could even cease to exist without using analytics to streamline existing operations and cut costs. Therefore, the increasing link between improved use of data and key areas such as crime prevention and better NHS healthcare, shows that embracing analytics is becoming a key ingredient to ensuring public safety.

Empowering public sector staff

Amidst the ongoing concerns of seemingly endless budget cuts, analytics is also helping public sector organisations that can only operate with limited staff. Beyond empowering them to work more efficiently, data-led techniques are also providing a safety net that improves employee wellbeing and job satisfaction.

The aforementioned research also revealed that for public sector staff, being able to gain new insights is favoured over tasks such as compliance reporting or collaborating directly with others using data. In fact, many admitted that they would prefer access to new insights over the opportunity to reduce their average daily workload. The value to which data analytics brings new insights and new ways of working to public sector staff therefore cannot be overlooked. This was supported by the recent research, which showed that 27% of public sector respondents use data analytics to help make better informed choices to improve delivery of services.

A day-to-day lifeline

Beyond the direct benefit to public safety, analytics tools are providing crucial support to the daily functions of the UK’s public sector organisations. For example, improved use of data helps to both automate and improve the accuracy of back office operations, such as collating reports, to subsequently improve the quality of service then delivered to the public.

With increasing budget cuts putting more pressure on public sector staff, government services now have little choice but to embrace technology to stop simply staying financially afloat and start serving the public in the best way possible. There is progress though; nearly 18% of public sector organisations now use analytics to support their regulatory compliance reporting and to streamline their operations, with 13.4% claiming that they share and collaborate on data to map how services can be improved.

However, there is more that needs to be done. Collaboration – whether through technology internally or with other public sector organisations – is the most guaranteed way to secure the future and improve the quality of public services. Although analytics is already proving its worth in the improvement of public services, these organisations need to be empowered to work as efficiently as possible and get public buy-in so that the nation understands that data is an ally, not something to be feared. After all, efficient public services mean better outcomes for the population.

About the Author

Sean Price is EMEA Industry Solutions Director, Public Sector and Healthcare at Qlik. Qlik helps enterprises around the world move faster, work smarter, and lead the way forward with an end-to-end solution for getting value out of data. Our platform is the only one on the market that allows for open-ended, curiosity-driven exploration, giving everyone – at any skill level – the ability to make real discoveries that lead to real outcomes and transformative changes.