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Shaping the future: Driving innovation in the public sector through a data-first approach

An effective data strategy is crucial to ensuring governments deliver great outcomes for their citizens

Developing high-value tools that encourage citizens to access government services online requires data capture that is secure, accessible to multiple agencies and applicable to high-value applications that citizens find beneficial. A well-planned data strategy can ensure higher acceptance and usage. 

Expert insight: “This is a challenging time, and our biggest challenge I would suggest is around silos, around trying to get people to collaborate. And I think if we particularly want to look for a way forward, the way to do that is co-creation between the user and the public servants in an open source and collaborative way.”

Dr. Tony Shannon, Head of Digital Services, OGCIO Department of Public Expenditures & Reform
By the numbers*: Top citizen concerns reported about sharing their data with government agencies are around the security of personal data and trustworthiness of organisations holding data about them:
81% of people surveyed were comfortable sharing their information with the UK’s National Health Service so that new healthcare treatments could be created.
69% of people were comfortable sharing information with researchers studying societal issues.

Public expectations: Personal data in exchange for perceived benefit  

With smartphones in their hands and their personal data in the cloud, consumers have become used to the convenience of easy and secure digital access to everything from banking information to health care. Now, they’re expecting the same level of access to government services. 

Citizens know that in order to receive services, they will need to provide personal information. A study conducted by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation found that for the most part, they are willing to do so, as long as they find the service sufficiently beneficial, such as to help develop new healthcare treatments and address large societal issues.

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CATI is "Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing"
Data source

Advocating for tools that drive digital transformation can create even more hurdles for leaders in the public sector than for their counterparts in the private sector. Digital projects for government agencies must prioritise addressing citizens’ needs along with the organisation’s priorities, meet strict regulatory and privacy requirements, and stay within budget constraints. Additionally, creating citizen-centric mobile apps and online experiences means ensuring that all data is secure, and that the user experience is straightforward. 

It all starts with data

Success for digital projects is measured by the number of users, and repeat users, who access and use it. When a project has multiple potential applications, its value to citizens, and to the organisation developing it, increases. Adopting a data-first approach can help ensure that your data is unified and accessible, and create opportunities for faster, easier, more robust management that enables advanced analysis and enhanced processes.

As the amount of personal data has grown exponentially over recent years, many organisations have struggled with hard-to-manage, outdated data management and storage systems that silo information and make secure sharing and analysis overly complicated. Additionally, many organisation leaders face the challenge of demonstrating the value that data-driven modernisation strategies can provide to funders and stakeholders. 

It may sound daunting to undertake a digital transformation, but an experienced and knowledgeable partner can make all the difference.

Real-world examples of data-first innovation

Around the world, governments are investing in data-driven initiatives that enhance decision-making, optimise resource allocation, and ultimately improve the quality of services provided to citizens. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish government asked Nearform to work with a coalition of partners to develop, build, and launch an app that would securely track and report potential contact with the virus. 

Project: COVID-19 Tracker
Customer:  Irish Government/HSE
Opportunity: Quickly develop and roll out a secure digital Covid tracking app for all citizens which also served as a 2-way information portal on symptoms and virus updates.
Outcome: Nearform deployed a design/development/operations team of 12 and used a cloud-platform and accelerated development approach to successfully launch in all jurisdictions in 5 months while satisfying all usability, privacy, performance and security concerns. 
Customer insight: “At a personal level, I was really impressed with [Nearform’s] technical capability and ability to react very quickly.”

Barry Lowry, Irish Government CIO

After successfully delivering the tracker app for Ireland, Nearform modified and expanded it for other cities and countries, creating, launching, and operating additional versions that ultimately covered 55 million people and handled more than 30 million cloud transactions at its peak.

What this effort demonstrates is that quick action and cooperation between stakeholders can result in high-quality, impactful digital products even under the challenging circumstances of a public health crisis. Additionally, we now have a template for the development of future services. Nearform is currently working with the Irish government on a range of different products that will benefit citizens, including enhanced data onboarding applications and more.

An opportunity to expand

Digital technology is creating new ways to access new and existing services that weren’t possible before, and a data-first approach that captures information securely and increases interoperability opens up the possibilities for applications such as disease trackers or personalised services that provide a positive impact for citizens and generate actionable information for government agencies.

Since citizens have indicated that they’re willing to share their personal information as long as doing so provides value for them, government agencies have the unique opportunity to gather and share data strategically, develop useful digital tools that solve problems, and create efficiencies within their organisations.

It can be a challenge to define and implement a strategy, but working with an experienced partner can minimise the potential pitfalls, maximise quality, and dramatically shorten the time to develop and launch a product. Explore Nearform’s services, and start your transformation journey.

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.