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Open Data, Data Science and Benefits For Government Operations

The government, through legitimate processes, collects a substantial amount of data about people, properties, licenses, crimes, public health and a wide variety of other entities. With the onset of IoT and increasing digitalization of government processes, almost everything can be measured, monitored and networked. Such data from different sources can be combined and “mashed up to produce new insights and new businesses.

The progress of Big Data Ecosystem makes this happen with affordable cost and efficiency. This data is a new digital currency which can drive the next generation urban infrastructure, policies and government operations. Governments over the world are making this data open for use by a wide range of users, including citizen activists, businesses, other government departments, the research community and government employees.

Open Data

Intellectual material that is:

1. Legally open: Available with minimal restrictions on terms of use
2. Technically open: accessible in a machine readable format for wide use.

Traditionally government has published this data on a web portal and called it open data. Actually what needs to be done to have a process of opening data with a legal structure to undergird the ongoing process, for authenticity, optimal use, and safety.

The two requirements to leverage open data for maximum benefits in government operations are mentioned below:

1. Open data policies create clear lines of responsibility for the management and oversight of data publication, create official spaces for public participation in data selection and publication, and ensure sustained commitment from government—all of which increase the value of the data to its potential users. They are also imperative to enforce secure and ethical use open data.
2. Open data architecture and standards – Data from different sources will have a different format, different storage, and different metadata. To make it effective use it need to roll up in a common standard format, clean it, aggregate it and then make it available so that it is easily accessible to others.

For setting up above two key building blocks Data Science skills and Data Platform become important. Many cities worldwide are appointing The City Chief Data Scientist to evangelize and accelerate towards open data government.

Chief Data Officer

The Chief Data Officer has a significant measure of responsibility for determining what kinds of information the government will choose to capture, retain and exploit and for what purposes.

He plays a crucial role in making the most of the data resources and creates value by:

Creating clear lines of responsibility for the management and oversight of data publication and ensures a sustained commitment to these processes
Establishing a groundwork for continuity of public access to regularly collected data
Creating a space for public participation in data collection and publication
Helping governments and citizens gain a better understanding of data holdings.
Let look at how CDO, Data Science and Open data benefit Govt.

Benefits of Opening Data

  • Increasing government capacity at low cost, benefitting broader range of people
  • Encouraging innovation from businesses, data-focused centers, academic researchers, software entrepreneurs, and open data activist groups
  • Improving internal quality and use of data, by the proactive online posting of public data and cross department access
  • Increased transparency and accountability of the government, a tool for rooting out corruption, holding officials accountable, and promoting public trust by broadcasting information about government functioning
  • Increased citizen engagement, two-way communication between authorities and citizens helps identify and meet challenges much faster

Analytics over Open Data

Open data, processed with data science applications, can present design alternatives to the traditional structures of government, offering governance models more suited to an increasingly digital society and new sources of evidence for policy-making.

Data analytics can be used by the city administration to trigger improvements across three broad areas:

1.     Resource optimization: Cost savings can be achieved by using data to eliminate waste and direct resources more effectively. One powerful example of this is better management of human resources. Using data analytics, one US federal agency halved its staff attrition rates and saved more than US$200 million in the first year, by eliminating retention programs that it found had no real impact and focusing instead on more effective programs.

2.     Tax collection: Governments can identify and stop revenue leaks, especially in tax collections. The Australian tax authority analyzed more than one million archived tax returns from small- and mid-sized businesses and identified groups with a high risk of underreporting. Targeted reminders and notices increased reported taxable income by more than 65% within those groups.

3.     Forecasting and predicting: Big data analysis can help governments understand ongoing trends and predict where resources are needed. For instance, the Los Angeles police department has used a predictive analytics system to comb through data such as historic and recent criminal activity, predicting where and when specific crimes might occur and dispatching officers accordingly. One study suggests the system is twice as accurate in predicting crime as traditional methods.

Some Open Data Solutions for Cities

1.  Smart Transport:  

Monitoring traffic and preventing congestion by predicting its conditions.
Organizing traffic to improve Air quality and reduce the impact of pollutants, based on analysis of historical and real time environmental data.
Public transport monitoring for easier access, minimizing downtime, predicting discrepancies and  increased safety.

2. Smart Waste Management:  

Using data of waste generation patterns and monitoring solid waste management to optimize resource utilization, efficiency and hygiene.
Monitoring sewage disposal and sewage constitution to make the process more hygienic to people and eco-friendly and to minimize dysfunction.

3. Smart Energy Consumption:  

Monitoring electricity usage to discover patterns of usage and requirement, and build an efficient and responsive technology that minimizes wastage and save electricity, at municipal as well as household level.
Smart street lighting, that turns off when not required and smart in-house lighting are some of the more apparent use cases
Predicting faults or likely failures in installed public systems can decrease downtime and efforts needed to fix mentioned systems.

4. Safety and Security:

Predicting crime, understanding the patterns and causes and targeting problem areas will be possible with analytics over crime records.
Information from social media can be used to predict threats or get information about a crisis, and it can be promptly dealt with.
Studying past records of tax defaults, loan defaults or other monetary frauds can help identify the group of people who are likely to commit such fraud in future, and to develop policies to avoid it.

5. Analytics in Government Operations  

Aim to develop and interpret policy and guidance materials related to governance regimes across a full spectrum organizations to provide analysis and advice on resource allocation for:

  • Effective use of resources
  • Program design, viability, and responsiveness
  • Funding pressures and mitigation strategies
  • Broad government operational issues and management strategies


Data is being generated in vast volumes at a great velocity and this data holds the potential to drive an urban structure which is aware, informed, responsive, adaptive, efficient and sustainable, and ready for an emergency before it ever happens.

Initial investments in developing analytics and basing new structures and policies around it will lead to large scale energy conservation, public safety, directed development, faster and more responsive public systems and greater interaction and satisfaction for people.


1.     https://socrata.com/open-data-field-guide/implementation/

2.     http://datasmart.ash.harvard.edu/news/article/improving-service-and-communication-with-open-data-702

3.     https://depts.washington.edu/esreview/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/2014-Government-Open-Data.pdf

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