Data: The financial crisis’ silver lining

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Brian Whittington mentioned last month that government is innovating, and at great speed. Based on what I’ve seen in our line of work with state and local governments around the country in the past year, I have to agree.

In the face of today’s daunting fiscal challenges, state and local governments are realizing they need to govern differently than they have in the past. What worked before will not cut it today or tomorrow. The silver lining of the financial crisis – if you can agree that such a thing exists – is government leaders are searching for and finding creative solutions.

Specifically, governments today are using data in groundbreaking ways. Data is helping recoup lost monies, connect citizens with the right services, prevent fraudulent behavior and much more.

Take the State of Illinois Inspector General’s Department of Healthcare & Family Services . Using historical case data and finding interrelations among the data through social networks, the Department can not only identify fraudulent providers but also uncover fraud perpetuated by criminal networks. The benefit? Fewer fraud-related financial losses for the state.

At the local level, the Department of Behavioral Health in San Bernardino County, California, is using data to increase the quality of services while also improving program effectiveness and reducing costs. The benefit? Funds and resources are directed to programs that are most effective and beneficial to constituents.

Elsewhere in California, Los Angeles County is using data from across departments to create a holistic view of programs and services utilized by indigent adults – all while ensuring participants’ privacy. The benefit? Reduced homelessness and fewer expense redundancies.

Regardless of the ups and downs of the economy, the amount of data is always growing and offering even greater potential to discover and accomplish amazing things. And so often the amazing has humble beginnings. Using analytics, one agency tackles one problem in one program and saves or recovers substantial money. The potential budget impact is startling. I think 2011 will be the year where those impacts start being felt around the country, led by innovative organizations like those in Illinois, San Bernardino and LA County.

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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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