2011: The more things change...

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2011 saw incredible change in the states as more than half of the governorships changed hands. As expected, that caused significant turnover at the State CIO level, as well. So while executive and technology policies changed in many ways, the dismal budget situation reinforced the need to allocate tax pay dollars in new and different ways remained. In other words, the critical role analytics can play remained unchanged, if not amplified.

Fraud

State and local governments are clamoring for ways to fight fraud, waste and abuse. With such tight budgets, it’s not enough to identify fraud after it’s happened and devote resources to the investigatory and criminal process. States should be focusing their efforts on preventing those payments from ever being made. For instance, by fighting Medicaid eligibility fraud with analytics states can identify fraudsters before they ever join the program. The good news and bad news of this is that there are so many types of fraud across state and local government. Obviously, that’s bad. The silver lining is the sheer size of the opportunity to substantially reduce expenses by preventing fraudulent payments.

Louisiana Workforce Commission is successfully fighting workers compensation fraud. Los Angeles County is tackling child care benefits fraud. Illinois, Medicaid claims fraud. States and municipalities are seeing the value of how bringing data together across agencies to get a holistic view of a citizen drives better decision making. We’re proud of the work we’ve done and recognize we are just scratching the surface. When we look back in a few years, I think 2011 will be the year when governments began to turn the tide against fraudsters.

Public Safety

It’s been an exciting year on the public safety side. Fusion centers continue to present great opportunity for data integration and analytics. The collection of suspicious activity reports is a huge data collection and analysis challenge, and the Memex Solutions team at SAS has worked with fusion centers to speed collection and sharing with the FBI.

I’m particularly proud of the roll out of North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS). It’s ahead of schedule, and 33,000 law enforcement and criminal justice professionals across 100 counties will soon be able to see a complete profile of an offender in a matter of seconds, providing improved situational awareness and safety for officers.

Not only that, NC State Controller David McCoy cites a return on investment of approximately $75-80M from better efficiencies. OSC is now applying analytics to curtail prison costs by measuring the risk of recidivism by offenders, allowing for interventions before they re-offend. The work of SAS and the NC Office of the State Controller (OSC) continues to serve as a model for other states.

Education

In 2011, the national discussion about value-added measures in K-12 education grew louder than ever. From the federal level down to local districts, there is a push to analyze data to measure schooling effectiveness and predict student performance. We continue to work with states and districts such as Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa and Houston ISD to effectively implement value-added assessment models. The ongoing debate about how those models are used is a spirited one, and we will keep reinforcing the need for robust models that provide the most accurate results. What could be more important than ensuring our children are prepared for college and subsequently, today’s workforce? 

Public-Private partnerships

My team and I have spoken with many governors and other leaders this year and have heard a consistent message. The economic crisis is forcing them to come up with new ideas and ways of governing. They are looking to the private sector for new ideas on how government and business can work together. We were ahead of that curve when, a year ago at this time, we launched the SAS Analytics Lab for State and Local Government to focus some of our most brilliant minds and powerful technologies on public sector challenges.  The demand for the Lab’s services has far exceeded our expectations.  The Lab has hired even more experts than anticipated to meet that demand.

The Lab has become a trusted “data steward” for government. More and more states are interested in having their data hosted, ensuring effective and efficient use of tax-payer dollars. They see it as smarter government.

Lab experts have also come up with new ways to apply SAS technologies to government data. For instance, SAS has a long history of helping financial services companies evaluate risk. As the economic crisis depleted retirement funds it became clear that state pensions needed effective risk management. SAS partnered with North Carolina to develop a solution to evaluate investment risk and protect the state’s $73 billion portfolio.

I’m excited about what new solutions the Lab may create in 2012. Where else can we apply analytics to help government run more efficiently, prevent waste and improve the lives of citizens?

Thank you for reading the SAS State & Local Connection in 2011. Stay tuned for more musings from our team and please join the conversation! I hope your holidays are fantastic, and see you in 2012!

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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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