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Why State Governments Need to get Smarter with Data

By: Rajesh Kumar, Sr. Industry Consultant, Teradata India Pvt Ltd

For effective delivery of citizen centric services, government agencies require effective and integrated information but the data which government collects today is organized in department silos. In most of the cases, it is highly likely that data already exists somewhere to enable better decision making but its timely availability for effective use is definitely a huge challenge.

Tackling Fraud and Misuse of Government Funds
One of the obvious initiatives is preventing misuse or fraudulent use of government funds, such as in the case of benefits related fraud. Currently, each department maintains their data with a belief that the data they hold on citizens is complete and correct.

This situation allows fraudsters to prosper – there have been instances where citizens who are tax payers in commercial tax database, claim ration benefits as BPL (below-poverty-line) family in Public Distribution System.

Addressing this issue requires a change in the way departments manage data. The present system where departments hold their own version of citizen data, that may not be up-to-date and so un-usable by other departments, needs to be scrapped.

Fresh Approach to Managing Citizen Data Ensuring ‘Right entitlement for right constituents’
A citizen voluntarily or involuntarily interacts with the government welfare department many times between birth and death, and also pays due taxes (direct or indirect). What if we capture citizen demographic data once, and continually update it with the latest welfare interactions the citizen has had with the government?

For a start, this approach will mean that those delivering front-line services have access to accurate, complete and up-to-date citizen records, and it also means that any instances of fraud will be nipped in the bud.

Making a Larger Socio-Economic Impact by Adding More Data
But this approach – of integrating that data held on citizens by different departments – is just the tip of the iceberg.
In a typical state, there are many other possible benefits if we start combining data held by the State Data Resident Hub (SRDH) with Food & Consumer Protection, Social Welfare, Health and Family Welfare, Minorities Welfare, Labor Resources and other external data sources. This enables the government to get a 360 degree view of a citizen when all the data is integrated.

Here are some of the areas that will benefit:
Identify geographic regions that are vulnerable to certain types of diseases. Using data from planning and tracking family welfare schemes, maternal health, pediatrics information, rural health services combined with climatic, economic, social data and the quality of healthcare provided.
Ensure food security to the needy (below poverty line) at fair price, by reducing the loss or theft of grains in-transit.
Tackle unemployment. Tracking unemployed youth, providing them with job-oriented courses, and personalized guidance for placing them in jobs. Identifying the key skills required for labor force to become employable and devising training programs to implement those skills.
Establish citizen financial status with tax data. By identifying non-filer, short-filer, fraudulent activities, asset and income mismatch, 3600 dealer view, behavior analysis with peer group and finding anomalies.
Improve quality of education. Understanding the correlation between school location, socio-economic conditions of students, admission, and drop-out rates to optimize curriculum planning as an example.
Citizen centric engagement. Analyzing text entered in grievance portals, social media, news, print media analysis, trending topics & sentiment analysis, to understand root cause.

Charting a New Course with Data
In most of these cases, the data needed already exists somewhere. What is needed is to bring all these different data sources together, whether they are historical, current, structured, from the internet, sensors, machine logs or other unstructured data and to transform them, and present them in a format which is analyzable. The logistics and resources needed to manage these mean that it would be easier if a platform approach is considered right from the start.

That is one part of the puzzle. The next part is analyzing that data using the latest analytical techniques and putting that information in the hands of the people who make those day-to-day decisions such as the officials at the frontline dealing with benefit claimants or school district budgets.

Other governments around the world have adopted these methods with proven results, and this, I believe, can also work for India.

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