John Q. Public, reveal thy self

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As I make my way around the country I often have the opportunity to talk with state and local government leaders and as you can imagine, the financial crisis is the first, second and third topics on their minds. Everywhere, state and local governments are forced with painful decisions to save money. But are those decisions as well-informed as they could be? I don’t think so. They’re doing the best with the information they have but what’s needed is a holistic view of citizens. How can that happen?

A retailer can know every way in which you interact with them as consumers. On their website, in the store, coupons you use, etc. They know how much they pay to attract you and how much you spend. They can do that because their data is integrated and reliable.

A shift from program-based operations and the resulting information silos would give leaders a view of the service level the state is providing a citizen, which would help them to know the best places to reduce spend. In addition to reducing spend, governments will have the ability to improve the quality of care and service levels and govern better.

My colleague, Greg Henderson, recently touched on this topic as it relates to fraud.

A mother who applies for food stamps might claim that she is not employed, but on a separate application for child care services might claim that she is working.

So often this goes unnoticed. If two agencies that provide social services can’t catch this discrepancy, what hope do agencies that have a more tenuous connection have?

A holistic view of a citizen would show all the ways the state touches a citizen. Taxes, legal system, social services, education system, health care…all these are areas where significant money is given and/or received from citizens. A holistic view would not only reveal gaps in services but also where citizens are receiving duplicate resources, thus helping leaders serve the citizens more effectively and ultimately providing a higher quality of life.”

It will take bold leadership to break down traditional barriers to information sharing. I feel like it's out there, and I look forward to discussing this more at next month's National Governors Association meeting. Stay tuned!

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Paula Henderson

Vice President, US Government practice

As Vice President of the US Government practice at SAS, Paula Henderson is responsible for leading a team that brings the power of SAS analytics to all 15 US federal government departments, all 50 state governments, and many counties and municipalities across the US. Paula believes analytics can help government provide high-quality services, while maximizing resources and budgets, and ultimately improve the lives of citizens. By decreasing fraud, waste and abuse, improving public safety and healthcare outcomes and, most importantly, protecting children, analytics can be applied across federal, state and local agencies to make our communities better and safer places to live and do business.

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