By Tarun Reddy Arasu
The continued growth in the use of technology by governments is reshaping public administration and redefining how governments interact with citizens, businesses, as well as with other governments. As a result, digital government platforms have become a cornerstone of modern governance, offering the potential to enhance the efficiency and accessibility of public services.
At the core of this current era of digital governance is a growing reliance on the wealth of data generated through digital interactions between the government and other entities (Long et al., 2021). Crucially, this data is often not merely static; it is dynamic, vast, and packed with valuable insights. In other words, it can update in real-time, meaning that governments can, for example, see changes in public transportation use or water quality in real-time. The ability to harness and act on this data in ways that contribute to public service provision is where the concept of Big Data comes into play. Broadly, speaking there are three pillars of Big Data in the context of digital governance:
- Data Collection and Sharing: Sensors, which allow governments to monitor and communicate information about public services in real-time, have revolutionized data collection and sharing within the government ecosystem. As a result, governments now have the ability to track performance and share vast amounts of data. In turn, this improved capacity for data collection and sharing has enhanced transparency in government operations and improved communication channels among departments, citizens, and the government itself. It has also reduced silos between different government agencies, thus improving the potential for improved collaboration and performance.
- Statistical Analysis and Visualization: To describe patterns that arise from the vast amounts of data being collected, governments must employ a range of different analytic and visualization techniques. These tools can empower governments to make informed decisions by converting raw data into actionable insights. For instance, in the healthcare sector, doctors can uncover hard-to-detect patterns from complex medical data, leading to more effective patient care and, in some cases, saving lives. These tools offer great potential to improve decision-making, but are only as good as the underlying data. In the event the underlying data is flawed or overrepresents some aspects of performance at the expense of others, inferences may contribute to service delivery inequities.
- Predictive Analysis of Big Data: While the ability to detect patterns from vast amounts of data is important, the transformative potential of big data is characterized by data mining algorithms and predictive analysis. That is, by the ability to predict events before they occur. Government agencies use predictive analysis to anticipate and mitigate various challenges, from flood forecasting to healthcare decisions, contributing to proactive governance. Based upon these predictions, governments can assign resources and prepare for different events.
In sum, the convergence of Big Data and digital governance is revolutionizing how governments address public problems (Solinthone and Rumyantseva, 2016). It can foster transparency, improve decision-making, and enable targeted actions that benefit both the government and its citizens. This digital transformation is redefining the very essence of governance, offering the potential to create administrative processes that are more efficient, responsive, and citizen-centric. The power of Big Data for digital governance is not merely a technological advancement; it’s a paradigm shift that aligns governance with the demands and expectations of the modern world.
As governments worldwide continue to embrace this digital revolution, we can anticipate even more innovative applications of Big Data. Yet while the potential for change is tremendous, there is also a need for governments to be mindful that Big Data is not a panacea and can create or reinforce biases in public service provision if governments are not mindful about how information is being collected and from whom.
Tarun Reddy Arasu is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University.
Long, C. K., Agrawal, R., Trung, H. Q., & Pham, H. V. (2021). A big data framework for E-Government in Industry 4.0. Open Computer Science, 11(1), 461–479. https://doi.org/10.1515/comp-2020-0191
Solinthone, P., & Rumyantseva, T. (2016). E-Government Implementation. MATEC Web of Conferences, 79, 01066. https://doi.org/10.1051/matecconf/20167901066