Organisations have more data than they can handle right now, according to Chong Yang Chan, ASEAN Managing Director of Qlik.

Data forms the bedrock of good citizen services. But “it is not difficult to imagine the extent of missed opportunities and lost potential from these underutilised data,” he adds.

Chan shares three tips for governments to integrate and visualise data accurately, and train staff to identify pockets of opportunity.

Tone from the top matters

It’s crucial for leaders to consistently discuss the power of data as the agency’s leadership team “oversees the tone and agenda for cultural change”, says Chan. Government agencies must ensure everyone understands the value of data for initiatives to be closely aligned with the team’s priorities.

Leaders can mandate that each discussion begins with a data point, he suggests. This will encourage employees to use data in making decisions, and increase their confidence doing so.

For data to be valuable, it needs to be collected, managed, protected, and used in a way that aligns with an agency’s priorities, says Chan. A unit chaired by a Chief Data Officer (CDO) will help agencies develop relevant policies for effective data management and governance. This will enable better data sharing among different agencies, which is especially useful during the pandemic.

A recent study commissioned by Qlik and consultancy firm Omdia found that 60 per cent of Singapore’s agencies already have such a unit. However, the public sector CDO is still an emerging role in Singapore – 35 per cent of public sector CDOs stated that their jobs lacked clarity in job definition, job execution, or both.

In the US, government agencies have benefitted from having the CDO function defined in the legislation, Chan says. That ensures consistency in job titles and responsibilities – and also provides partners a better understanding of how they can support the CDO’s efforts.

“This is the first step Singapore can take to help pave the way for transformation in the government’s use of data in the coming years,” he adds.

Data literate staff

Agencies must invest in developing a workforce that is confident in working with data, Chan emphasises. “Not everyone needs to turn into a data scientist, we just need to empower them to have confidence with data.”

Organisations can first determine the current skillsets of all employees through surveys, and customise training programmes from there, he shares.

Apart from training, leaders can also pair analytics experts with policy experts. The former can share knowledge on how to handle data better, and also learn more about the public sector’s needs. This way, both groups can borrow each other’s expertise, Chan says.

Organisations can learn from Singapore’s GovTech, which is partnering with Qlik to train public officers in data science, he shares. The agency gives its officers access to a wealth of learning materials and the latest tools to improve data literacy.

GovTech also holds an annual government-wide hackathon to help officials get comfortable with using tools like Qlik Sense. Last year’s competition saw 400 participating teams from different agencies.

Organisations can tap on free online resources like Qlik’s Data Literacy Project, Chan says. It provides organisations with free resources for data literacy – from quizzes to a data literacy certification. The company also launched a Data Literacy 2.0 programme earlier this year, which provides comprehensive instructor-led courses and consulting services.

Evaluate the tools at hand

“As data rapidly grows in volume and complexity, it is essential to continually assess the best way to use it,” Chan says.

The Qlik and Omdia study found that analytics and business intelligence technology was the top resourcing priority for Singapore’s public sector CDOs. Some concerns include integrating data, finding the right technology partner, and upskilling public sector officials.

Agencies in Singapore can use bulk tender partnerships to make it easy to purchase software and services, Chan says. SIFT Analytics Group was recently awarded the bulk tender for Qlik, enabling agencies to purchase Qlik products without going through a lengthy process.

This also provides an extra level of assurance that the software has been evaluated on both its technology and price competitiveness, he adds.

Agencies need to manage the influx of data effectively to deliver good citizen services. Qlik believes that the direction from leaders, staff training, and having the right tools at hand will help.

Image of Chong Yang Chan by Qlik