Building citizen services on bad data is like drawing water from a contaminated well – it poisons everything it comes into contact with and breaks the trust of those who use it.

Data is the bedrock of citizen services today, and data governance is key, says Janet Liao, APAC Principal Product Marketing Manager at Talend. “It is basically the end-to-end management and control of data from people, technology and process.”

GovInsider spoke to Liao and Loo Soo Kiat, Head of Big Data & Analytics at NCS, to break down what effective data governance looks like.

Develop the right processes and tech

An organisation has to first “be clear on what it wants to get out of data, what types of the data it wants to collect, and how it will be stored”, says Liao. It also needs to think about these questions: “who has access to the data, how long do they have access to the data, and how can they access the data?”

Public sector agencies must develop the right processes to answer these questions. “Until these are set in place, technology will not be valuable,” she adds.

A common data framework will be useful, says Liao. When collecting addresses or verbatim information, for instance, the framework will ensure data is semantically consistent across agencies. “An apple remains an apple across agencies A, B, and C”, she explains.

After these requirements and processes are established, stakeholders can easily define the type of technology features and capabilities they’re looking for. Technology can be used to enforce the relevant data security controls, says Loo. Privileged access management solutions and encryption are some options to keep sensitive data secure.

Balance it with data democratisation

Agencies should balance the above governance controls with data democratisation, says Liao. “It shouldn’t be thought of as ‘free for all’, but rather, there needs to be a proper data framework in place.”

“You cannot have democratisation without governance, that will just lead to data security breaches. You also can’t have governance without democratisation, because that means you’re hoarding information. Both strands need to be weaved together,” she adds.

Organisations can start by democratising data access, Loo says. That brings in the idea of “self-service” – “instead of waiting for IT to extract the data and download data for me, I should be able to go into the system and extract the data that I need.”

That would accelerate data analysis, he adds. “If we always rely on a couple of data scientists to actually do the work of deriving insights, we’re going to have a lot of bottlenecks.”

Data analysis tools must also be democratised, Loo says. “There’s no point in providing all the data in the world, but you don’t have tools that normal people can use.” User-friendly technologies would allow non-technical employees to query the data and derive insights.

Data democratisation will only be successful when an organisation has a data-driven culture, he adds. Agencies must train people to have a basic understanding of data and expose employees to the use of data analytics in their daily work.

Leverage public cloud offerings

Agencies can also consider how to better leverage offerings in the public cloud, says Liao.

While governments have their own cloud for security reasons, “a lot of new technologies and innovations are coming up, and they are all in the public cloud.”

“I do think that if that data segregation can be done properly within the public sector, and the data security aspect can be addressed, moving to the cloud will be a much more viable approach for the public agencies,” she adds.

Having an effective data governance programme will help governments create reliable services and build citizen trust. Managing people, processes, and technology will be key.

Find out how to enhance your agency’s data governance strategy by downloading Talend’s guide here; and learn how to ensure data compliance in Singapore with the help of this joint paper from Talend and NCS.