Leveraging Data Analytics for the Government Sector – Applicability and Benefits
In India, Big Data Analytics is just about getting started in the Government Departments. Considering India’s huge geography and demography, effecting projects with quick turnaround results is a major challenge.
Several central and state government departments have invested in ‘Data Lake’ infrastructures, and they have started accumulating data from various sources. This is just a start, but developing AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Language) applications to process and to make use of this data is still in the nascent stages.
Ongoing Initiatives -There are several public sector units that have ongoing projects with a focus on data-driven governance. In the sphere of urban development, the ‘Smart City’ initiatives are perhaps the first ones that shall possibly be able to showcase applications of mining big data. Efficient planning and services delivery cannot be effectively implemented without recourse to mining data from myriads of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors around traffic, transportation, utilities, and intelligent buildings. There are good applications for ML and AI in the areas implementing command and control, smart water management, green energy (solar rooftop panels), etc. — which are all constituents of the proposed smart cities.
Another area where some advances are being made is in applying AI and ML to geospatial data and satellite imagery. This is being used for assessment of crop health in various parts of the country, and to monitor and to predict trends in urban development. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has undertaken a Big Data Initiative (BDI) to identify and to sponsor Research and Development projects in applying Big Data science for public services.
Connecting the Administration with the Common Man
In the age of Digital India, Analytics has a big part to play in getting the common man closely associated with the administration and vice-versa. In fact, several government departments, especially the Police departments, of almost all metros use apps and social media. Thereby, they stay connected with citizens and offer them a platform for interaction, as well as service delivery. Of late, there has been a continuous, state-wide initiative taken by Police departments to fortify vigilance through public mobile applications. These applications enable the common man to inform and to report any criminal occurrence without having to wait to visit the nearest police station. M-governance mobile apps are being offered by several metro local bodies to cater to popular service requests and to queries. In this way Digital India is certainly making strides in leveraging technology in areas of public service and administration.
Big data analytics applications can significantly help the government to: boost efficiencies, counter fraud, generate greater transparency, spike productivity, and stimulate economic growth. The path to achieving this is, however, riddled with challenges and complexities. The biggest stumbling block is the lack of vision of what may be achieved by creatively leveraging Big Data. By and large, state and central government departments lack an understanding of the potential of Big Data and, being unsure of the returns on investment, are reluctant to take steps for embarking on such projects. Wherever the government has invested in Big Data infrastructure, it has primarily been efforts in accumulating the data in a central location… what one would call a Data Lake. Harvesting the intelligence in the data being stored is still underway.
The second challenge in India – which is quite unlike other nations which are trying to make use of Big data for public services – is the huge number of languages and dialects which people use in communicating with the administration or on social media. Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities are intrinsic to making sense of unstructured data. The number of languages for which NLP algorithms need to be developed for India, is also a humongous task. Another glaring hurdle is the lack of availability of skills in AI/ ML and Big Data technologies.
Finally, the most popular social media platforms used by Indians are the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp. These are all run by organizations in the US. Access to their databases and streams, for even security purposes, are not greatly available to the Indian public departments.
Enterprises, like ours, that undertake Analytics projects for the Government sector need to take cognizance of the challenges they are likely to encounter in project delivery realization. It’s more than cultivating awareness and an intent to make a difference by working with government departments. Conversely, governments can be more industrious in setting up a ‘Big Data think tank’ that actively engages with other government agencies, technology providers, and consultants to achieve desired results that can help bring on a significant change.
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