Mar 21 2024
Data Analytics

Data Dashboards Provide True Citizen Service Through Analysis

Insights can inform the public and drive operational efficiencies for government agencies.

Local governments do their citizens a favor when they present data on public-facing dashboards. One example of such a dashboard is a crime heat map, which presents statistics on crimes against people or property through an interactive geospatial information system.

For cities, these dashboards help to bridge the gap between reality and belief, providing true situational awareness. When citizens see a robbery on the news, crime might not necessarily be on the rise, and they can confirm statistics in their neighborhoods with a crime heat map.

In recent years, more local agencies are building these dashboards with general-purpose applications such as Microsoft Power BI or Salesforce Customer 360, leaving behind purpose-built solution sets.

Agencies are more willing to use Microsoft tools or Salesforce tools than applications built for only one purpose. Instead of using a purpose-built solution for, say, law enforcement, an agency can buy an application that addresses the needs of every office in the agency or even across the entire government.

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Five Reasons to Gain Insights from Analytics

State and local agencies establish data dashboards to share information for five primary reasons:

  1. Gathering intelligence-based information. Agencies can study activity by linking people, places and things.
  2. Assessing serially recurring events. Government workers can identify trends in data and propose the means to encourage or stop those trends.
  3. Examining operations. Agency personnel can review the how, when and where to determine patterns and trends that may impact operations.
  4. Making strategic decisions. Experts may read data to see how to improve resource allocation or to address emerging challenges.
  5. Addressing administrative priorities. Governments may address considerations such as transparency through public-facing data dashboards.

Every dashboard likely fulfills one of these five objectives or a combination of them. But the goal is to aggregate all data into the same system to uncover connections between data sets. Analyzing data and presenting through a dashboard can achieve objectives for public utilities, public health agencies, public safety agencies and others.

CONSIDER THIS: Data literacy in government is enhancing data-driven decisions.

Technical and Operational Challenges to Aggregating Data

It’s worth noting that data presented in dashboards isn’t collected for the dashboards; it’s collected for other reasons. What we see in a dashboard is a presented analysis of several sources of existing data.

When working on data-sharing initiatives at CDW, we often encounter data in silos. Our first recommendation is usually to create a data warehouse. Officials can find performance opportunities for data by sending it through a data warehouse, and they can normalize the data to standardize its format. Applications such as Power BI then query that warehouse.

It's a big challenge to bring semi-structured and unstructured data into such an enterprise. In some cases, unstructured data is a live raw data stream that is not being recorded into a database. It may be cost-prohibitive to store that complete stream, including complete telemetry data, for example. Large video files are also expensive to store forever; governments just cannot afford to do it.

But getting enough of that data to analyze it can produce great results. Agencies can track vehicle patterns and assess the routes that they use. They can then determine where agencies could be more efficient or address pressing concerns.

In any data-sharing project, governments may face political, technical and operational challenges. But there are tremendous benefits to overcoming these challenges and establishing public-facing data dashboards to bolster citizen services.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series.


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