How to Use Business Intelligence for Governments

July 22, 2019

Mieke Houbrechts

Government institutions use business intelligence to drive policy-making and public information. Learn how embedded analytics makes this process easy.

When it comes to data, the public sector is a real playground. That’s no surprise, given the vast amount of data that government institutions have at their disposal. It’s an immense source of information for health, public safety, climate, transport, and other civil topics.

But in order to use that data to its full potential, government departments will need an effective strategy to handle this heap of information. In fact, according to Gartner research, government CIOs are planning to invest large parts of their technology budget into data & analytics in 2019.

So how can you, as a government official, successfully adopt a business intelligence strategy? Learn how data visualization can help governmental institutions to inform their citizens better.

Government embraces business intelligence

As to the private sector, it has been in full digital transformation during the past decade, using new technologies to improve business efficiency. Similarly, government departments are catching up with the adoption of new technologies to improve the way they work.

As a result, more & more niche software is developed to serve the specific needs of the public sector. Generally speaking, these technologies are divided into 2 categories.

  1. Tools that help governments inform & engage with citizens, called Civic Tech
  2. Tools that increase the efficiency of internal operations, called GovTech

Whether you are looking to optimize processes or to optimize public information towards citizens, data plays a key role in both cases. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples.

Illustration of business intelligence for government

1. Using open data for better public information

Let’s first talk about open data. Almost all government data is open data. This means that citizens can freely access & use that information. Oftentimes, it contains helpful insights for a citizen’s everyday life, for example information about:

  • Mobility: public transport, road traffic, parking
  • Public safety: crime rates, traffic accidents
  • Health: results of studies on smoking, air pollution, etc.
  • Environment: weather, waste collection, climate studies
  • Economy: employment, taxes,…

However, most of this open data is shared with the public in a raw or tabular form. This makes it very little insightful for a large group of people who don’t have knowledge of data science.

This is where data visualization & dashboarding can help. In fact, government institutions investing in data visualization are telling their story visually. As a result, they are able to engage with citizens at a much broader scale, opening up the social conversation.

Modern BI tools even offer the possibility to embed these dashboards into a web app or web page. To illustrate, a nice example of this is the Belgian Bureau of Statistics. They created a municipality tool, where citizens can easily view all kinds of statistics about their city or municipality.

“The past couple of years, local policy makers such as mayors and councilors have shown more and more interest in these kind of statistics on their municipality. This is why we decided to create a visual, user-friendly tool that anyone can easily consult.”

Wendy Schelfaut, Spokeswoman at Statbel
Example of how the Belgian government uses embedded business intelligence to drive policy-making

2. Using government data for operational excellence

Data does not only drive conversation with citizens. It also fuels the internal processes, which can be fairly complex in government institutions.

If you visualize these internal operations data, it will allow you to break down your processes in more detail. Consequently, it helps to expose potential bottlenecks in your processes.

As a result, you’ll be much more in control of your processes. You’ll see in one glance when & where to take action.

To illustrate, the Fire Department of Antwerp is a good example. They visualize all their interventions in interactive data dashboards, to follow up live on each intervention and to get a better view on how they are being handled.

Their dashboards are a big help, especially for interventions at a bigger scale with considerable damage, for example when there has been a storm.

Illustration of immediate action-taking based on business intelligence in government

Business intelligence in the entire public sector

It’s clear that data is a useful asset for government institutions, but it goes much further than that. The entire public sector & even privately held companies that serve the government can benefit from business intelligence.

On government level, business intelligence will drive better operations, policy-making & public information for:

  • Government institutions
  • Ministries
  • Provinces
  • Cities & municipalities
  • Public services
  • Police departments
  • Fire departments
  • Inspection services
  • Other government agencies

In the wider context of ‘public sector’:

  • State-owned enterprises (e.g. railways, telco, airlines, banks, etc.) use BI tools to optimize internal processes
  • GovTech & Civic Tech companies use embedded dashboards inside their applications, to offer government officials more insights into their data, directly inside the tools they are using

There’s a visible trend towards data literacy, across the entire public sector. Companies & institutions in the public sector are stretching budget for dashboarding & analytics with 1 key reason: to inform & serve their citizens better.

Are you active in the public sector? Talk to our product experts to learn more about public-facing analytics.

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