Analytics tools help open the book on public-sector agencies

Virginia Performs website is one example of letting the public track government performance

The White House and Congress aren't the only government organizations pushing for transparency in their operations and availability of their data. States and municipal governments also are making use of business analytics tools and flexible websites to keep the public apprised.

The White House got the ball rolling with the appointment of federal CIO Vivek Kundra in March 2009. "I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations," President Barack Obama said in the press release.

Now states such as Virginia are following suit, reports Government Technology.

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A number of agencies in the state are using business analytics to boost performance and improve transparency via a new website called Virginia Performs.

Virginia Performs tracks how the commonwealth is doing in areas that affect the quality of life for residents and their families. It also monitors Virginia's performance in multiple areas, broken down by region, as compared to other states. And it explores how the state government is working on behalf of its citizens, according to the website.

From employment growth statistics to the infant mortality rate, the website culls data from national and state resources and displays the information via text, maps and graphs.

The trends used by Virginia's leaders to utilize analytical information and the Web as instruments to improve both "government business and public trust" is not unique to one state or level of government, according to Government Technology.

"The spectrum of the information to be analyzed is continually rising," Gartner Research Director Massimiliano Claps told the publication, adding that "certainly state governments are looking at more intelligent ways of using analytics and data technology to do that."  

The good news: Government has tons of information assets already and is collecting data all the time.

Although government organizations are behind the corporate world in making use of business analytics, they can use their own data to influence organizational agency decisions on financial, personnel and other matters. 

"The next step is: What do we do with it?," Eric Sweden, senior enterprise architect at National Association of State Chief Information Officers told Government Technology. "We've got all this information. Let's harvest it. Let's get some value out of it."

Indeed, interest is growing. For the last three years, analytics applications have placed in NASCIO's top 10 list of most wanted technologies by state CIOs.

Other state and municipal governments are taking advantage of open technology as well, including:
  • In Miami-Dade County, Fla., employees create internal efficiency reports and publish information online using business intelligence technology. The county's recently updated analytics software allows more than 1,000 users from about 42 departments to consume or create custom reports using departmental statistics and data. The public data includes daily jail population figures, which the Miami Herald newspaper uses.
  • A predictive analytics deployment system used by the police department in Memphis, Tenn., is credited with reducing the city's crime by 31 percent since 2006. Officers can analyze incident patterns and forecast where the high crime rates will be. Using the mapped data, officers can decide where to dispatch resources and how many officers to send.
  • New York state is using business analytics tools to help citizens find jobs. In October 2009, the New York Labor Department began to manage its Skills Matching and Referral Technology, a Web-based system that matches a job-seeker's skills on a resume with those requested by businesses in the state job bank.

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.


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