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Sharing (data) is caring

Pierre-Adrien Hanania

Conversation with Pierre-Adrien Hanania, Global Offer Leader Data & AI for Public Sector

Though there are legitimate reasons why governments tend to be cautious about making big changes in their storage and processing of data, it’s still possible – and even critical – to find ways to break the logjam.

“It’s definitely slower than other sectors because the innovation is less rooted into the structures. Indeed, the right data culture is key here, given the sensibility of the data. In many cases we are dealing with critical data such as patient data, social benefit data, and sometimes we are dealing with a security-relevant data.”

In order to thrive on openness and make knowledge available, the public sector has made big strides in rolling out Open Data initiatives. Particularly in Europe, Open Data portals are providing ready access to government data to third parties – and with this changing the digital culture of organizations and how they can leverage information playfields. While this is a first step, it’s a common misconception to equate Open Data and data ecosystems.

“Open Data is one part of the ecosystem, but it’s only one part.”

In many data ecosystems, the data is not necessarily open to the public. Instead, data ecosystems utilize the advances in security and partitioning to allow private and non-public data to be safely shared between citizens, businesses, and governments. Whether that data is  about transportation, health, education, or social services, data ecosystems enable more and richer data to be shared. In doing so, the data ecosystem allows different stakeholders to collaborate for the first time. The data is put into a common virtual playground where they can all leverage it.

“The case of data sharing public sector – a special kind of business.”

Often the difficulties start with the sensitivity of the data amassed by public sector agencies. This creates hurdles around finding the right ways to anonymize data and navigate privacy rules. But it also means finding ways to talk about the value of data ecosystems that are distinct from those that apply to the private sector.

“Whenever we talk on things around data, I read about the topic of data monetization. But of course, when we deal with the public sector, we cannot approach it the same way. Because we’re not talking about the business only, we are often simply talking about rights and duties in regard to citizen engagement and societal mandates safeguarded by governments.”

The public sector needs to identify the distinct motivations that apply to its needs and obligations. Where executives in the private sector might be driven by the specter of competition, governments aren’t necessarily facing rivals.

Instead, the catalysts are move civic minded. Data ecosystems are a way for governments to develop better relationships with citizens by leveraging their data. Through advances in UI, accessibility, and speed, consumers are being subtly trained by the private sector to expect and demand high-quality experiences in their digital interactions and transactions – whether for tax collection, homecare journeys or crossing-border experiences. This includes robust personalization and responsiveness. When they encounter un-intuitive government websites that offer few features, a poor process flow and little flexibility, they are bound to start grumbling.

“When we use apps on our phones to buy shoes or pick an Uber for going home, that experience sets the standard. So, then you try changing your address for tax collections and it’s frustrating that the experience is so poor and complicated.”

While governments can’t necessarily measure outcomes by the bottom line, they can still be held accountable for costs and efficiencies. In that respect, data ecosystems can help reduce operating expenses through consolidating infrastructure spending.

Sharing is winning – but what exactly?

In the field of insights, data sharing can also improve security. Bad actors are increasingly using tools like AI to commit fraud even as the good guys are using it to improve products and services. When it comes to fraud detection, data sharing will enable the public sector to use data ecosystems to react quicker and collectively in regard to an international disease that knows no borders – and by that will get its hands on a richer analysis that comes from expanding the pool of data sharing with a variety of public and private partners.

And it’s not only just about improving operations. Data sharing can make it easier to find the right and relevant information for both government employees and citizens. Indeed, this can be a way to improve insights and the way governments serve the public.

For instance, bringing together different stakeholders perspectives via data enables greater personalization. If several actors from different geographies and structures take part in a process, it provides a 360-degree view that allows for richer solutions. Imagine a government offering an intelligent job matching powered by data from the national employment agency, a specific job providing organization, and dynamic market data. Job seekers and employers would be far better served.

As an example, a hospital having trouble filling job openings because it lacks information on candidates. Joining a skills data ecosystem that dynamically evolves along the market evolution with the unemployment agency would be a natural way to leverage the shared data in a way that would the hospital and recruits connect more efficiently – with a focus on available skills rather than on only long-term schemes.

That path to achieving these breakthroughs starts with a full inventory of data. Once they have achieved real Data Mastery, these agencies can turn outside and start connecting with other organizations in the public sector.

Government agencies must also be clear about any data compliance issues that determine which types of data they can leverage. While there can be limitations, particularly on data that identifies individuals, the good news is that technology is available to help address many of these issues through anonymization techniques such as synthetic data creation, differential privacy and zero knowledge proof concepts.

In data culture we trust!

Beyond the technological part, culture can often become the most crucial step of the transformation.

The public sector can address this in part through training, education, and upskilling of employees and managers. It helps to show them real-world examples of other agencies that have used tools like AI to reinvent their services and relationship with citizens. It also puts them in the driver seat, acknowledging what potential they want to activate with the available data – and what use case fields they don’t want to explore, due to technical or cultural decisions and values.

In general, combining first discovery steps in data ecosystems with a cultural change plan – can be done by appointing a Chief Data Officer, or by setting-up re- and upskilling training in order to involve the public servants on this digital journey. For instance, Capgemini has recently helped the German Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees take this a step further by helping to build a Data and AI competency center that allows managers to assess the maturity and potential of data cases they may want to pursue.

Capgemini embraces data sharing across geographies – and puts the citizen at its center

In other areas, data ecosystems supported by Capgemini have taken many forms, in Healthcare with the French Health Data Hub, in UK with the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) or at EU level with the European Open Data Portal.

Many of the components a data ecosystem must bring to the table are coming together in an ambitious Smart City that Capgemini is leading with the city of Dijon, France.

Capgemini helped design and build a new digital platform for Dijon that connects citizens, utilities, businesses with government services such as waste removal, street cleaning, smart parking and traffic regulation. The project was a true collaboration of various partners such as SUEZ or EDF, who helped the city administration and Capgemini to best leverage a platform nurtured by multiplied data endpoints.

One of the keys to success was indeed federating the data involved by also including everyone from big utilities to local government to startups to citizens. Specifically, citizens can benefit from the system but are also important contributors. For example, they can use an app to report a bike accident and that data flows immediately to a central command to dispatch emergency crews far more quickly. Earlier this year, the city also launched a “Data Challenge”, calling participants of the ecosystem to bring ideas in relation to specific city challenges, like waste management and citizen engagement in the public area.

We embraced the citizen as a consumer but also the producer of data. We made the citizen the heart of the data ecosystem.”

It’s more than just creating efficiency. This is the key to changing that relationship so that residents go from being passive consumers of information and become smart citizens. This is absolutely a critical lesson about the ability of data ecosystems in the public sector to profoundly improve and reshape society in the decades to come.

Know more

We demonstrated our support to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals again last year by joining the AI for Good global on Nov 16, 2021. In this event, Capgemini experts, public organizations, society and business stakeholders explored how data-sharing can enable us to monitor and understand the development of the SDGs. Watch the replay of the sessions here.