I’ve been spending some time lately researching trends in IT for an essay I’m writing on the role of local government data and information systems in producing community change. One of things that hits me time and time again is the mass amounts of data that are being produced these days. Local governments are no exception to the rule, having traditionally collected large amounts of data from their residents. We are the keepers of records for the community. And I believe that getting the maximum value from all these data requires a fundamental shift in thinking, a move from considering the “I” in IT to be“information” to instead be “innovation.”
But understanding the needs and wants of constituents is vital to providing good service delivery. We all strive for greater citizen engagement in our daily work and struggle with how to encourage that public involvement in our decision-making processes. Using data analytics—the study of large sets of raw data to gather critical business intelligence—can potentially serve as another form of citizen engagement.
Consider, for example, the types of data collected by a local government 311/CRM system. When people take the time to call, text, of e-mail about something, it is important to them. Those data can tell us what services citizens are contacting their local government about and where those calls are coming from in the community among other things. Among the more popular reports produced by 311/CRM systems:
- Number and types of information requests
- Number and types of service requests
- Time taken to complete service requests
- Percentage of service requests completed within a targeted timeframe
- Geographic location of service requests
- Trends in citizen requests over time
These types of data can be used to help improve local government performance and make better budgeting and resource allocation decisions. It’s not the same thing as having a constituent participating in a public hearing telling you what he or she wants, but the analysis of local government data can still shed light on what’s important to the public.