The Power Broker describes how Robert Moses went from trainee official to the tsar who redrew New York City: creating expressways and demolishing neighbourhoods; pulling new parks out of thin air and transforming entire zip codes with an unwavering desire for change.

His secret? Moses started out in research, reshaping civil service evaluations and procurement systems with data. He found that evidence is crucial for any civil servant, and for any organisation that wants to know what it is doing. This skill took him to the very top.

Today, the research profession is changing rapidly, with tech transforming its potential and its impact on public policy. “Insights from data will allow governments to drive policies to execution in a way never imagined before,” says U Chee Lioy, Industry Cluster Lead for Public Sector, Southeast Asia, SAP. We take a look at three professions that are at the cutting edge as new methods and models emerge.

1. Tax collection

Tax isn’t a common area for public sector research, but it holds tremendous potential for reform. Analysing payment patterns allow governments to streamline various tax collection processes, making them more efficient and transparent to the public in the long run.

SAP demonstrated their commitment to improving public service in Queensland. They worked with the Queensland Office of State Revenue to use data-driven techniques and improve tax yields.

Every year, a group of taxpayers would be late in making their payments. Queensland’s tax department was able to collate 10 years worth of debt data using cloud and data software, and could then predict the taxpayers who would default with 71% degree accuracy. This enabled a personalised payment plan to be created for them in advance of default.

Queensland Government was only able to improve its tax collection policy with cutting edge data and cloud technology at its disposal. It also made its processes more transparent to employees, and allowed greater collaboration across the department.

”Our government is being very supportive of this, because they want Queenslanders to be able to get on to do their business, to grow the economy.” said Simon McKee, Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Treasury’s OSR. “The whole purpose is to make it easier for our clients.”

2. Crime

Crime has always been a crucial area for public sector research. Police departments can use data analysis to trace and reduce complex violations like drug abuse, theft and cybercrimes. With the correct tools, this research holds important implications for the future of national security.

Over in the USA, the Indiana Government has used the latest techniques to track and rapidly reverse rising drug abuse rates in the state.

The State Government created a data-driven management system for crime lab drug statistics across the region. Tools like geospatial maps and data visualization helped monitor the regions with highest levels of opioid addiction over time.

Once the data was collated and processed, different public agencies could then collaborate with the governor’s policy unit to test the best policies to reduce the trend. This policy was powered by SAP technology, which enabled the data to be pulled together across silos and calculated with AI.

“Looking forward, the state expects to apply data to other resident problems and collaborate with multiple internal agencies and groups to improve citizen’s overall quality of life”, explains Greg McStravick, SAP President of Data and Database Management.

3. Healthcare

Medical research is potentially the most extensive and crucial arm of public sector research. Ranging from patient diagnosis, to medical technology and clinical trials, the healthcare industry collates large volumes of data from different sources which then need to be processed, stored and analysed for the future.

SAP has supported Malaysia’s Ministry of Health in their fight against Covid-19. When Malaysia faced low supplies of medical equipment, EY Malaysia implemented SAP’s systems to channel medical resources from various organisations to hospitals. “The cloud solution provides optimum logistical support and response to organisations assisting the Ministry of Health in Malaysia for the supply of ventilators and protective equipment”, reported SAP.

The company can reform research and data in many ways: centralized data and enterprise tools can make medical research more efficient, as data volumes rise globally and public sector officials need to track trends across times and locations.

Amalgamating these effects, healthcare research can become faster, more accurate and more innovative to advance public policy. “Agencies can be more agile and responsive, incrementally adding connected solutions to address new problems – without disrupting operations”, according to the experts at SAP.

“Government is the only agency in the world that has access to huge amounts of data from the various public services offerings. Imagine if a fraction of this data can come together in a single platform and leverage on intelligent technologies to analyse and recommend action plans,” concludes SAP’s Southeast Asia public sector lead U Chee Lioy.

As Robert Moses found, knowledge is power. But that knowledge is best when it springs from data.