Opportunities Abound for Public Sector to Improve Citizen Experience Via Big Data

by Cris Paden

posted on 05-22-2017

Posted by Siddharth Kulkarni, data science analyst, Digital Insights, Digital Economy Project at Adobe, and Luiz Maykot, data science analyst for Adobe Digital Insights

The public sector faces many of the same challenges as the private sector when it comes to making use of digital information. By harnessing their data, forward-thinking organizations can identify opportunities not only to improve digital experiences but also to offer unparalleled speed and insights into policy making.

Government is no stranger to ambitious use of big data. From censuses to shipping logs, federal, state, and local governments collect massive amounts of information and have used it for decades to improve government effectiveness and make key decisions. Today, the public sector is actively looking for ways to make the most of the shift to digital in order to create data-driven insights that create meaningful digital experiences for anyone who interacts with government.

Think about tax season. In an era where everything from setting your thermostat to seeing your doctor can be done via smartphone, nearly 70% of tax documents are still handled via paper forms. Almost 42% of consumers say that an entirely electronic experience would make filing taxes online easier and they probably feel the same way about many other interactions with the public sector. But even the private sector is struggling to keep pace with ever-changing technology and customer behavior. Total visits to U.S. websites has stayed flat since 2014 but traffic is rapidly shifting away from the desktop and to the smartphone, where visits are up 69% year-over-year. This is an opportunity for the public sector to be an innovator, optimize for mobile, and get ahead of the curve when it comes to reaching citizens where they are.

As younger audiences grow into key constituencies, it’s becoming even more important for both the public and private sector to leverage digital technology. We ran a survey of millennials this past February and found that younger Americans are almost twice as likely as older adults to value publicly available policies and information from brands and companies they trust. Since government agencies are often already required to post policies publicly, making this information easily accessible can be an easy way for the public sector to build trust and engage with new demographics. Before your team can deliver the right information in the right ways to consumers or constituents, you must understand your user.

That’s where the power of big data comes in. At Adobe, we’ve found ways to leverage our own technology and big data to develop insights with major policy implications. In the spring of 2016 we launched the Digital Economy Project (DEP), an effort to use data from Adobe Experience Cloud clients to produce a faster, more detailed tracking of economic conditions. By aggregating billions of anonymized online transactions, we created a monthly Digital Price Index (DPI) that tracks inflation in more than a dozen consumer spending categories.

Our work has caught the attention of government entities in the U.S. and the U.K. who are interested in how our data can complement their own so that a fuller, faster profile of the economy can emerge. When political or economic events are poised to move markets, real-time data becomes a critical input to policymaking. For more than a year, we’ve been analyzing inflation rates for goods and services purchased online in the U.S., giving the public and interested stakeholders in the business, academic, and government sectors early signs of price changes. Last summer, on the tail of the Brexit vote, we analyzed transactions in the U.K. to better understand consumer sentiment across the pond. We plan to expand our project to include more categories of consumer spending and implement our DPI methodology to countries around the globe.

Without the power of the Adobe Experience Cloud, the Digital Economy Project wouldn’t be possible, but it’s not only about having the right technology. Sometimes the most daunting challenges can be getting buy-in from key stakeholders across and outside an organization. At Adobe, when building the Digital Economy Project, we focused much of our time consulting with stakeholders and getting buy-in from our teams, leadership, academic advisors, and others. The result was more than just a powerful new database of information: We also had a pipeline for developing and disseminating insights and a set of champions for our findings.

The public sector has some hurdles to overcome in using big data to develop insights to craft engaging, meaningful digital experiences, though many of the challenges are shared with organizations in the private sector as well. This presents the public sector with an opportunity to lead, meet constituents where they are, and discover rich insights that will allow them to more effectively achieve their missions.

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Topics: Government