The New Zealand Data Futures Forum (NZDFF), a Government working group set up to advice ministers on how the collection, sharing and use of business and personal information will impact public services in the coming years, brought together a select group of stakeholders in Auckland today to consider the implications of big data and its usage for the public and private sectors in the country.
“We are creating demand for a lot of data and analytics. We are a series of monopolies and government departments. We have found that in the last four to five years the most significant investment in these entities are IT investments, in the context of the increasing understanding that those investments transform the organisation.
"In that context what is important is for us to understand what transformations are going to matter and which ones are going to be effective. So we have produced something that tries to mimic some of the things that the private sector and businesses do. We have something called the results framework and the ten results that the government is trying to achieve. Eight of them are related to social outcomes and two of them have to do with digital relations between the government, business and the citizen,” said finance minister and deputy prime minister Bill English.
According to English, this means that government agencies have to put themselves to the test on whether services are being delivered at the levels they should be.
“Government agencies need to know about their customers. We need to understand how they drive revenue and how they drive cost. In our case, service failures is one of our highest cost drivers. If you have a child in school who leaves and have a young person who is not able to read or write, that is a very expensive outcome for us.
“If a sole parent under the age of 20 has a child their average stay on welfare is around 20 years and that’s pretty expensive. Traditionally, we have run these programmes as mass initiatives, but with our results framework we are trying to run that as a more individualised understanding of what each person needs,” said English.
Explaining how increased data and analytics could help the government ensure better service delivery, English pointed to the example of the school system.
“Schools are turning into data rich environments. Soon we will be able to hold data together through from early childhood to employment. We can use that to make some well informed decisions. Too often the government is flying blind. We might spend $20 million dollars on a programme. You want to know how it works and so does the government. When it is not sure it announces another programme.
“So you have got layers and layers of redundant, ineffective, sometimes successful ways of interacting with our customers,” said English.
According to him, the results framework and a data-driven approach is about setting the government in the right direction and within several areas, including the likes of education, health and social welfare, getting to a point where the customer is better understood.
“In terms of structure, some of the features of recent change include the move to integrate data, including linking data by name and birth date across all the information silos. We are also working on much more integration with the research community.
“I would also like to enable a budget that is directed to the customers. It should reflect on allocation of resources around them, but not around the delivery units who have completely dominated how we use your resources.
“That is the power that data gives us and over time that is going to be make dramatic shifts to the way governments do their business because decision makers called ministers can know a hell of a lot more and understand that what they are trying to do is not controlled by the entities that sit between us and the customer,” said English.
The Auckland event featured NZDFF members as well, who took part in a panel discussion on the future of data and analytics in the country.
The NZDFF’s main objective is to stimulate open public discussion about the future of data use and sharing in NZ. The NZDFF will remain active till the 30th of June, and is inviting participation and comment from Kiwis here.