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How Government Agencies Are Using Business Intelligence Today

Giuseppe Costa,

Real-time data monitoring is just one way of how government agencies are using business intelligence

In recent years the introduction of Business Intelligence (BI) in the informatization of the public sector entities has been increasing positive feedback. The reason is probably due to the need for these institutions to measure and interpret the information gathered from their systems.

Public Information System Needs

Until a few years ago, the main objective in the public sector was mainly to be able to easily and quickly access to information: goal now largely achieved, both in terms of supporting infrastructure (as a broad band access and adequate power for servers’ and clients’ hardware) and from point of view of the software to acquire, access and query the data. (Read more about how governments are adopting Cloud technology here in this article.)

The challenge is now on two main areas:

  1. How to consolidate the information and how to access them;
  2. Make the information available for analysis and generation of advanced and cross report to the various functions.

Regarding the first  point, it must be emphasized that in the Italian public sector there are about 1,400 databases containing about half a million gigabytes of information. These databases often contain the same information in different formats and accessible through software that are not able to talk to each other.

The main databases on which are concentrated unification efforts are those relating to population registers, to spatial information, land registration and taxation. The alignment and the maintenance of all of these databases and software has a very high cost, in terms of time and money.

For this reason in recent years there have been numerous attempts in the direction of the reduction of software used in the public sector, encouraging the reuse of existing ones through the preparation of catalogs shared between agencies.

In these catalogs were collected all the software already in use in the public sector, classified according to the scope of use and characteristics, for easier searching.

Each entity shall, before adopting a new software, consult the catalog and verify the existence of a software that meets its needs among those already acquired and therefore available at no cost or reduced on the basis of agreements.

BI Needs of Public Entities

These projects were more or less successful, but today the situation is still very fragmented and makes it very difficult to reach the target in step 2.

The BI meets the needs of the public sector in both cases.

With the extract, transformation and loading tools (ETL) it allows standardization of the information maintained with heterogeneous systems and technologies, providing a single point of access to data collected by the various systems.

The propensity of BI systems to work with the so-called "Big Data", make it perfect for the management of the quantity and variety of data present in thousands of databases.

While the BI techniques help in the unification and in accessing information, on another hand, they make  advanced instruments of analysis available to public organizations and these instruments allow them to exploit the immense wealth of information and, where possible, facilitate strategy and decision-making.

Applications in the Public Sector

Thanks to the application of BI we can analyze enormous quantities of data to interpret the behavior of citizens through statistical modeling to better understand their needs. The potential uses of BI and business analytics are manifold, ranging from the scope of tax, to the transport  and health systems. To name a few: financial analysis, planning and scheduling of work, planning and strategic control, management control, performance monitoring and evaluation of the objectives.

With BI, for example, the regional representatives of the financial service are independent now in using reports, extemporary analysis development and monitoring of the main indicators of effectiveness, efficiency and cost effectiveness of the entity.

Another interesting application you have in the tax, allowing the integration of information from land registry, place names, civil status and property tax returns, in order to detect tax evasion and unauthorized building.

The performance assessment can also be applied to institutional affairs, assessing the efficiency in case management through the analysis of the duration detailed in stages, sectors and progress.

Personal Experience in Public Sector BI

Extra has always worked closely with government agencies, implementing a number of BI solutions in different sectors: public administration, tourism, central government, and education to name the main ones.

The solutions, based on Pentaho Business Analytics Suite, can cover all the needs in the field of BI: ETL, OLAP multidimensional analysis, reporting, interactive dashboards, predictive analysis and classification. From our personal experience, here are some examples on how how government agencies are using business intelligence in Italy.

Local Government Transparency

In the local government level, we used BI to address the problem of the transparency. The solution proposed by Extra has brought many benefits for both the administration itself and citizens. It enabled the automatic publishing of reports accessible by the citizens via the web which contains constantly updated information on the allocation of public funds, with respect to all acts subject to the obligation of transparency. Furthermore, the solution provides an interactive, multi-dimensional analysis system, which allows officials and entity managers to monitor data relating to expenditure and funds and to perform complex analyzes autonomously on fundamental indicators of effectiveness in the use of funds.

Italian Open Government model

Regional Tourism

Working in the local Italian tourism sector, we were able to combine information coming from the registry of the tourist facilities, ISTAT and the police headquarters (guests of resorts / hotels / B & B), to analyze the tourist traffic, keeping in mind supply and demand to implement campaigns and initiatives that would encourage the development of underutilized areas and strengthen the areas that are struggling to meet the demand due to lack of facilities.

Public Education

In the public education sector is being set up a system to gather information on teachers' careers, on the academic history of the students, the administrative staff and the services offered (meals, accommodation, library), creating a centralized repository of key information on the operation of the facilities and departments. This repository will be used to make dashboards for monitoring key performance indicators (KPI) and interfaces for querying and interactive analysis of the information, which will enable executives and managers of the various functions to verify the proper functioning of the administrative sector, the proper provision of teaching and ancillary services in addition to the performance and progress of students’ training.

Italian Central Government

For the central government, Extra is developing a system for the recovery and analysis of data related to the implementation of government’s program steps, to design and mount tools that allow monitoring of the actions of the government. This information will be combined with other sources, in order to be analyzed by top-level government officials in an autonomous and interactive way, through various graphical interfaces for Data Analysis (Report, Dashboard and OLAP).

Business Intelligence's application, despite its name, is not only limited to business. Governments have started using them too!Take a look at the three major Business Intelligence brands and see how each compares against the other. Download our free BI Showdown: Pentaho vs. QlikView vs. SAP Business Objects.

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