Digital Transformation in Government – Part 2

In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I defined Digital Transformation in Government as the initiatives arising from:

  1. Using Big Data to do things or offer services that could be done otherwise (the “Data Driven Government”).
  2. Using IoT (Internet of Things)  to do things or offer services that could be done otherwise.
  3. “Data” becoming the government’s service.

In Part 1 I also briefly described what “Data Driven Government” means and described what the State of Indiana did using data to fight infant mortality, a global best practice. In this second part I will examine the other 2 thrusts of IoT and Data becoming the government’s service.

Internet of Things:

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) per se is the use of intelligent assets (intelligent machines, sensors, devices, etc..) to collect data, monitor conditions, and using that information to generate actionable insights. The public’s attention (and media coverage) is usually focused on the infrastructure part, the installation of sensors and other intelligent assets. This has been done to great fanfare in many places and in diverse applications such as installing sensors to continuously measure pollution levels, measure and manage traffic, map wild fires, provide patient information back to the care providers, and alert to potential flooding.

The number of connected devices is expected to grow to 220 Billion by 2020 according to IDC. This huge growth, and the associated growth in data generated, brings with it challenges in the form of encrypting, transferring, and storing of the data by the concerned government agencies and, just as importantly, providing the appropriate tight access controls.

Where IoT becomes a transformative engine for government is when this information from intelligent assets is linked into the “Business Systems” (the government’s IT systems) and integrated into the the government business processes. It is in those instances where the transformational power of IoT become clear.

The city of Buenos Aires is a global case study of how to use IOT to truly transform life in the city. Flooding has historically been a problem in the city and in 2013 relentless rain in the city caused flash floods in parts of the city resulting in chaos, destruction to thousands of homes and the unfortunate death of almost 100 people. The city responded by installing 30,000 IOT sensors in the flood drains that measure the water level in the drains, the speed and direction of water flow and more. This was combined with information from weather reports, garbage collectors, and citizen’s complaints. By Analyzing all that information in real-time, the city was able to locate the drains that needed intervention and service crews were dispatched proactively to take action.

The result: In 2014 record amount of rain fell on the city, but, the 30,000 storm drains remained clear and none of the streets were flooded, no homes destroyed and no lives lost!

Data as the Government’s Service:

Traditionally, governments around the world, collected the data, kept it under lock and key and used some of that data to generate information, services and applications that are shared with the public. This burdened the government with the cost of developing those applications and limited the use to the priorities and creativity of government. A better, more open way is to publish that data and let the public, both individuals and corporations alike, to use and interact with the data, and potentially producing applications of their own.

“Data as the Government’s Service” has been done around the globe, usually as part of an Open Data initiative. The transformative power of Open Data is that it makes the information available to all kinds of individuals and organizations (private, public, not for profit, …) and opens the door for them to innovate. This in effect crowd-sources innovation using government data.

In fact, examples from around the world suggest that by making the data available in this manner, government organizations stand to gain just as much as private organizations! For instance, British Columbia in Canada reported that around one third of the site visits to the Open Data service came from within government.

Opening the data and inviting innovation from across the spectrum is critical and can transform the ways government interacts with the public. Just as importantly, Open Data has the power to seriously increase citizen engagement with their government. It also provides a platform for an interactive dialogue between government and citizens.


The applications are not limited to developed and well-served cities like Toronto, Stockholm, Dubai and others in their league. Open Data has successfully been used around the world in diverse applications including fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone, to monitoring elections in Indonesia, to providing insight into healthcare providers in Uruguay to the public.


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