If you are a government leader, or one of the millions of people employed in the public sector globally, these last 100 days have probably been the most challenging of your lifetime. It is also an unprecedented opportunity to show how dedicated public servants and their agencies can best serve citizens in this time of crisis.
Through analytical insights based on all available data within – and across – government agencies, public sector agency leaders can ensure policy decisions and resulting operational activities deliver the best possible outcomes. During the pandemic and especially as we recover from the devastating impact, understanding analytics best practices will be extremely useful. Analytics can both create clarity on the destination through a fulsome understanding of our environment and circumstances (situational awareness) and inform new policies and structural changes. Government agencies cannot face down this crisis on its own.
The private sector is also stepping up to help. We at SAS have developed a three-phased framework that, when applied to government agency decisions, can guide leaders to make critical decisions.
Respond, Recover, Reimagine
Respond: Achieve better situational awareness
In each phase, the application of analytics may be different because the decisions are different. In the early stages of a crisis, when governments are responding to the crisis, leaders must know what has happened, what is happening and what is likely to happen. Companies in the private sector and public sector agencies frequently employ analytics to develop situational awareness. They assess the situation, collect data, visualize it and use trends and analytics to predict the future.
Included in this situational awareness are analytical capabilities to optimize limited resources such as medical equipment like personal protective equipment (PPE) or testing kits. But analytics can also help non-medical agencies identify and deliver the right benefits to the right individuals and families at the right time. Public health agencies can use specialized analytics to empower manual contact tracing efforts to better understand who should be tested, where the virus is spreading, which communities are at greatest risk and identify missing or unexpected linkages in the community.
Recover: Help get citizens the help they need
As communities begin to recover and move beyond the urgency of immediate reaction, analytics can support public sector agency efforts. Many countries, states and local government agencies are targeting their support – which in many cases is direct stimulus payments – to individuals and businesses. Agencies can preserve their limited funding for those who truly deserve it by using analytics to identify which entities need the most assistance and to detect fraudulent activities.
In the recovery phase, public sector agencies must evaluate their agency situation: they must assess a likely drop in revenues and prioritize activities and projects with limited funding. This too can be improved by applying analytics to make evidence-based decisions on projects that will have the most impact over specified periods of time, such as the next three, six and nine months.
Reimagine: Transform how agencies serve the public
When we emerge from the pandemic emergency, the use of analytics can help our government agencies reimagine approaches to a new and changed landscape. Public sector agencies have been talking about digital transformation for years. We now realize that digital transformation isn’t a luxury, but a necessity in a world where a global virus can change people’s lives overnight.
Transformation, or reimagination, is difficult. But public sector leaders can use analytics to unlock the vast potential of the data within their agency and others. In turn, leaders can make informed and innovative decisions that will improve outcomes, ensure access to services and programs and support good stewardship of money and the public trust. Advanced analytics like artificial intelligence and machine learning, when applied to data within an agency and from sister agencies, increases productivity and efficiency and enhances decisions by making them more predictive.
We are at a critical moment. There is still much to be done to help individuals, families and communities respond and recover from this deadly pandemic. But we can’t miss the opportunity to use analytics to transform the current state of our government. Gene Sperling, in the introduction to his 2020 book “Economic Dignity” writes:
“Today we are in a moment of major reexamination of how well our existing model for modern capitalism is serving the majority of working people. Can it create paths out of poverty and reverse accelerating economic inequality, repair the hollowing out of the middle class, and cope with dramatic technological change? Such major questions rightly call for equally new policies and structural changes. It is precisely at moments when we want to make giant strides that we should make sure we have clarity on our ultimate destination.”
Analytics, especially advanced data visualization, artificial intelligence and real-time streaming analytics, is critical to ensuring clarity during this transformation.
Please check out guidance for public sector agency leaders in How Public Sector Agencies Can Use Analytics to Lead Through Crisis using the respond, recover, reimagine framework. Also, please share ways you think government agencies can come out of the crisis stronger and more responsive to citizen needs.
 Economic Dignity, Gene Sperling, Penguin Press, New York 2020, Introduction