Imagine saving US$5 million a year by improving a city’s bus routes. Or serving 11,500 more low-income citizens by predicting social service caseworkers’ unanticipated absences.

These are just two of many real-world instances of how governments can harness data analytics for good, featured in a report by the Harvard Kennedy School. Governments already collect huge swathes of data. What’s needed now is infrastructure that is powerful and agile enough to enable effective analysis.

Yet, data processing takes up huge amounts of energy. How can we strike the balance between environmental sustainability and citizen-centric services? Pure Storage explains how flash data storage can help governments achieve the best of both worlds.

The value of data-driven decision making

Governments run on data. Storing, monitoring, and analysing data purposefully can dramatically cut costs and allow agencies to deliver better services.

For instance, analysis can yield valuable insights into previously invisible trends. Predictive analytics allows governments to optimise finite manpower and resources by revealing which upgrades and maintenance efforts to prioritise. This helps to prevent costly equipment failure.

A bird’s eye view of cyber systems can also make security teams more aware of vulnerabilities, allowing them to take decisive action.

For useful analysis to occur, governments must first be able to pull data from a wide range of sources. Up till the recent past, this was relatively uncomplicated. Most information was contained in neat repositories such as Excel sheets, making them easy to store and manage.

Today, unstructured data such as audio files, video footage, and sensor data are coming to the fore. By 2025, 25 per cent of all data created will be unstructured, analyst firm IDC projects. This could be troubling, as it’s harder to store and extract meaningful analysis from information that cannot be easily processed by traditional computer programmes.

For governments to effectively harness the potential of data, they need a more efficient and effective way to store and process it.

Processing power and sustainability: a fine balance  

Yet, even as data can be harnessed for the public good, governments must be aware of its huge environmental impact.

Data and the computer systems used to process it are housed in dedicated buildings known as data centres. From servers to cooling infrastructure to storage equipment, data centres’ every component guzzles huge amounts of energy.

In fact, data centres consumed a whopping 7 per cent of Singapore’s total energy consumption in 2020. This prompted the government to announce a temporary pause on new data centres, Channel NewsAsia reports.

Making matters worse, legacy data centers are inefficient. They use heat-generating spinning disks. They require much larger amounts of electricity and water to keep cool, leading to even more wastage.

Many governments have affirmed their commitment to preserving the environment for future generations. As they work towards this goal, governments must find a balance between environmental sustainability and operational capacity.

Flash storage: an efficient, powerful solution 

Flash systems, the alternative to legacy spinning disk drives, could be the answer. Flash-powered data centres have solid state drives rather than spinning disks. They generate less heat and waste, and require dramatically less energy.

Pure Storage’s flash storage solutions have had a positive impact on the environment. The efficient, high-density systems havehas saved customers 4 billion kWh of energy over eight years, amounting to US$2.5bn in savings, a 2020 Pure Storage report indicates.

Flash data centres are also faster and more powerful than their traditional counterparts, allowing them to perform complex analysis operations with relative ease. Pure Storage’s FlashBlade, for example, can support tens of billions of files, system effectively consolidating key unstructured data workloads to crunch out valuable insights from data.

Governments are increasingly feeling the pressure to deliver on both sustainability and citizen-centric innovation. Thankfully, technological innovations mean that they need not compromise on either.