The Role Of Data For Government Experiences

The intersection of data and government services allocation is a very defined system that is often overlooked by the public.

Originally published on the Government Experience portal on February 10, 2019 

By Xische Editorial, February 10, 2019

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As the United States enters its longest government shutdown, Americans are starting to think about the diverse and often forgotten tasks of the federal government. Indeed, most people around the world don’t pause to think about a large number of tasks governments take care of each and every day. One particularly interesting casualty of the US government shutdown is data collection. The Department of Commerce normally tracks large amounts of data about the economy, its health, and other performance indicators. This data is incredibly important for both Wall Street and Main Street as it provides valuable insight into the actual health of the economy as well as guidance on how political decisions are affecting the everyday financial concerns of many Americans.

As the old adage goes, when something disappears, then you start to miss it. While economists are struggling without critical figures amid the shutdown, the larger debate about data has global relevance especially with regard to the intersection of data and government services allocation. Governments, like many technology companies, collect and trade massive quantities of data. Since the days of the Ottoman bureaucracy, data has been one commodity that governments simply can’t get enough of. Yet, few have been able to bridge the gap between data collection and paths to improving the lives of residents and citizens. Sure, a government could collect data about how many people registered for passports but unless they analyze the times of year when people are most likely to apply in order to divert extra resources for heavy periods, data is essentially useless by itself.  

One small northern European country continues to get it right with the use of data to improve services and that is Estonia. Nicknamed the “digital republic”, Estonia has moved many of its government services online so that citizens and visitors can save time and accomplish their tasks at any time of day. From registering to vote to check on one’s pension or ordering a new passport, Estonians interact with their government in the immediate and intimate manner that only the internet can facilitate. In Estonia, data is shared across government offices and departments (and often backed up on a blockchain). Instead of siloing data and thus creating roadblocks to streamlined and efficient governance, information can be accessed by various entities as necessary. It might sound like a simple step but it is revolutionary in delivering the best government services experience.

Estonia is a small country and that is a major advantage for its progressive use of data. Unlike the United States, with its 350 million residents spread across 50 different states, small countries can be nimble in their approach to data and data usage for good. The United Arab Emirates is a perfect example of another country that is taking data very seriously. Home to more than 200 nationalities, the UAE is a small country with a diverse set of residents. With a history of processing visa requests from around the world, the UAE has a strong foundation in seeking out and implementing creative solutions to streamline the government services experience. Efficient government services is a necessity informed by a passion to innovate. 

Over the last decade, Dubai’s commitment to smart city solutions for all aspects of city life has placed the city on the cutting edge of global innovation. From driverless cars to the use of blockchain for government data functions, Dubai’s leadership understands that the tools being designed right now can have an enormous impact on the daily aspects of our urban lives. Put simply, the innovations taking place at the nexus between government and services in Dubai will have dramatic effects far beyond the borders of the UAE.

With the rise of emerging markets around the world, Dubai’s role as a beacon city for millions grows by the day. From East Africa to Central Asia and India, Dubai is the meeting point for the population centers that will lead to innovation in the next century. Thus, developments in how Dubai uses data to make government services better will impact other cities around the world that look to Dubai for inspiration. Given its leadership vision, track record, and diverse population, Dubai is well positioned to emerge as a leader in data science for government experience design.