Data sharing strategies must include all

If the past few decades have confirmed anything, it is the growing power of data.

Data is broadly defined to include activities involving big data, statistics, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) at every level, to help companies and the public sector optimise their operations, and improve public service delivery in many ways.

Recently, AI, especially generative AI, has shown promise in transforming businesses, and as such, garners the most excitement. Even so, basic analysis using small amounts of shared data is remarkably effective in helping business leaders and public officials make better decisions, have better control, and improve their productivity or delivery in general.

This has led state governments like Selangor to drive the digitalisation of their administration through the development of a central infrastructure for the purpose of data exchange – Selangor Government Data Exchange (SelGDX).

This initiative was launched in 2022, and the platform went fully operational two weeks ago. It was launched by Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari on Oct 19, during the Selangor International Business Summit (SIBS) 2023.

Just like any other innovation, the risk of insufficient investment targeted towards building a “data-driven culture” positions the government data-sharing platform at risk of becoming an abandoned funfair, yielding marginal economic value to the state.

It is all too easy to call for “data-driven cultures”, but actually defining and building such cultures is far beyond the comprehension of most data professionals.

Survey data suggests that relatively few government departments and agencies actually have a data-driven culture. And to irritate the situation further, current levels of data quality simply do not support or stimulate data sharing at scale.

Data leaders are not blind to these issues. But what steps should organisations take to work towards a new paradigm, towards building a data-driven culture? How should they think about fully integrating data into their business or public service strategies? What targets should they aim for, and what should they do initially?

Here’s what I learnt from my small involvement with Cloud Connect, Telekom Malaysia, and the Selangor government towards the development of SelGDX:

i. Acceptance is driven from above

As we know, embracing a new paradigm is very much subject to how we determine the potential of the new innovation in enhancing the functions of the organisation we are in, and in facilitating our role as individuals within that organisation.

If the innovation is viewed as a significant step forward towards greater public service delivery, then the people or employees would be more accepting and susceptible to a paradigm shift.

What this means, of course, is that there is a significant investment needed in strategic internal communication activities. But most importantly, it must be ‘championed’ by the leadership.

For new innovations to thrive, organisations must make some significant changes to their management paradigms for data, and their most senior leaders must lead that charge.

ii. Getting everyone involved

While data analysis has been around for a long time, the innovation themselves are somewhat intimidating and appears to be far more complicated than it actually is.

Exacerbating this further, the urgency and rush to digitalise is hurting initiatives toward a paradigm shift. It is very easy for non-technical people to get lost in the jumble.

And such anxiety, can quickly drive a person to opt for the lazy alternative of simply rejecting the innovation. But having data scientists alone cannot truly define a public concern or issue, sympathies with the data, or deploy a data model into a social framework without the help of the relevant, regular users within the state departments and agencies. Nor can they make the needed improvements to data.

That is why senior leaders from various departments and agencies within the state government were called upon to the many workshops, including the workshops for the development of the state data-sharing policies. Practically everyone can appreciate small data and basic analytics to improve their productivity.

Change management initiatives conducted by the state government build individual skills and confidence, which can collectively make a real difference to the digitalisation efforts of the state.

We are excited to see more of these change management initiatives and the drive for greater data-driven culture in Selangor.

We hope to see SelGDX opening access to the public. Generally, many regular people find small data empowering, and so, are more than happy to join the fun.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13

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