A new book from SAS guides public sector leaders in the use of data to address a wide range of state and local government challenges. Each chapter deals with critical issues facing our country, including the opioid epidemic, child abuse, spiraling health care costs, prison overcrowding, education reform, rampant fraud and the rise of smart cities.
Below is my foreword from the book, A Practical Guide to Analytics for Governments: Using Big Data for Good. I'm honored to share my perspective on the vast expertise of the authors, and the passion our team brings to supporting the public sector. I encourage you to learn more about the power and potential of analytics for governments.
Nowhere can more good be done, for more people, than in government. Yes, that messy, challenging and inspiring entity that simultaneously frustrates us and, often without us realizing it, dramatically improves our quality of life.
I lead a team of nearly 230 people whose mission is to help government, help people. It’s our calling. Practically, we do that with software but, on a deeper level, we do it with passion, optimism and a belief that analytics wielded by dedicated public servants is a force for good.
This book can empower those people to change lives. It is a guide to how analytics can address our country’s most pressing issues. I also encourage regular citizens to read it. We all hear about analytics and “big data” but not everyone truly understands it. This book makes the application of data and analytics tangible, and builds excitement about the possibilities.
I have five children. The plight of at-risk kids in this country is never far from my mind. The all too frequent media stories detailing another preventable child fatality tear at my heart. I meet with government leaders on this topic. I serve on the board of a non-profit dedicated to preventing child abuse. I evangelize the power of analytics to create brighter futures for children.
Will Jones contributes a chapter about improving child well-being by, in part, helping overburdened caseworkers prioritize risk to the children they’re charged with protecting. The child protective services people I’ve met with consider it a sacred duty. But, we ask too much of them. No one understands that better than Will. He spent more than 20 years on the front lines of child protection, juvenile justice and behavioral health. [Ed. note: Will continues his efforts, now as President & CEO of Thompson Child & Family Focus.]
That’s what you need to understand about this book. It’s not written by a bunch of PhD statisticians and data scientists. It’s written by people who spent decades serving government at every level…serving you.
In addition to Will Jones, we have Nadja Young, a National Board Certified teacher with a passion for helping students succeed. She shares her inspirational and heartbreaking personal tale of how her life could have turned out much differently if not for dedicated teachers. This experience drives her efforts to assist state and local education agencies in better using data to improve student outcomes.
Jennifer Robinson, a town councilwoman for nearly 20 years, spends her days educating city and county leaders on the wide-ranging opportunities to be more efficient and serve their citizens more effectively with analytics. She believes the primary goal of Smart Cities should be to improve quality of life, and analytics is the foundation for those efforts. Her chapter is full of compelling and informative local government case studies.
Jeremy Racine has spent years evangelizing the use of prescriptive analytics, with positive patient outcomes as a top priority. He writes about how data and analytics offer unprecedented insight into skyrocketing health care costs and population health. This knowledge is key to unraveling the financial challenges but more importantly, combatting our most dire public health threats such as chronic disease, mental illness and opioid abuse.
Opioid abuse is such a drastic problem, it warrants an entire chapter devoted to prescription drug abuse. As university faculty, a practitioner at Duke University Medical Center and in 17 years at Pfizer Global Medial, Steve Kearney, PharmD, has seen every side of this issue. It’s not just a public health issue, and not just a problem for law enforcement. Steve’s helping agencies aid people in the throes of addiction, and put away those who profit illegally off the suffering of others.
David Kennedy has worked with criminal justice and public safety agencies for 12 years, helping them use data and analytics to manage cases, catch perpetrators and keep citizens, and themselves, safe. But criminal justice challenges go well beyond getting bad guys off the streets. Prisons are overcrowded, recidivism rates are high, court systems are congested and police-community relations are strained. David explains the role analytics can play.
Major General (Ret.) Jim Trogdon is a professional engineer with 30 years of experience in transportation, including five as Chief Operating Officer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation. In January 2017, he was selected by Gov. Roy Cooper to lead that department. While we miss him at SAS, his expertise and leadership will be of even greater value to citizens of the Tar Heel State. He writes about getting people from point A to point B as safely and efficiently as possible with analytics. Oh, and I hope you’re ready for autonomous vehicles.
A 26-year veteran of state government, Carl Hammersburg was a professional fraud buster for Washington State. He led data sharing and analytics efforts that doubled audits and tripled outcomes, earning awards from two successive governors. Fraud is rampant in government and manifests in unexpected places, perpetrated by sophisticated networks and schemes. Yes, Carl paints a bleak picture, but gives us hope, too.
When Kay Meyer led the creation of North Carolina’s enterprise Government Data Analytics Center, she transformed the state’s analytic approach to criminal justice, fraud, waste and compliance, and more. Now, she travels the country helping government agencies transform their states and localities by launching Centers of Analytics. When data sources that have never been integrated suddenly start talking to each other, it’s amazing what can happen.
Our brave editor Marie Lowman has spent 20 years illuminating how technologies can government agencies meet their goals. She gives this book the same treatment. Unable to resist the pull of public service, she served as an appointed commissioner for five years and is currently serving her second term as an elected councilmember. [Ed note: Marie was just elected to a third term!]
Our country faces many problems. Literally, lives are at stake. Analytics can help, but its impact is intensified when used by people with a desire to make a difference. People like these authors. If you’re reading this book, you’re probably one of those people, too. I hope this book inspires you to consider ways to improve the lives of citizens through data and analytics. But, with or without software, we can all be a force for good.