Real-Time Data for Operations and Decision Making

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Real-Time Data for Operations and Decision Making

We've provided statistics, data points, insights, and case studies about the use and relevance of real-time data for decision-making and operations from government, municipal, and public safety agencies. Additionally, we included insights on the future of real-time data in the decision-making process of governments and public safety agencies.

Statistics/Data Points/Insights: Use and Relevance of Real-Time Data

1. Governments Using Real-Time Data for Response to Public Challenges

  • Deloitte's Government Trends 2021 Analysis tells us that to make decisions and respond to public challenges, governments are leveraging real-time data.
  • The most recent example was the use of real-time shared data to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling secure information exchange within the US and the rest of the world. The US National Institutes of Health facilitated and centralized COVID-19 health records accelerating sharing data for rapid response.
  • Three clear trends we are seeing amongst governments using real-time data are: 1) Accelerating data sharing by building exchanges, like the Energy Data eXchange platform from the US Department of Energy; 2) Facilitating standardized data and FAIR which has helped Austria's government reduce the cost of regulatory reporting over 30%, and; 3) Protecting private data from sharing without consent by redesigning data governance.
  • Policymakers are creating alternative economic indicators for real-time and new policy insights with information collected from cell phone data and satellite imagery.

    2. Governments Combining Hindsight, Real-Time Data, and Foresight for Decision Making

  • Governments are developing new capabilities to take advantage of the power of data to make decisions and help their country.
  • To create valuable solutions they are combining the data presented in the past, present, and future to analyze their potential actions.
  • The government analyzes previous similar situations by leveraging the data already available, machine learning, and advanced analytics as a way to determine what worked in the past.
  • Then, the government uses real-time data to understand the current status of a situation and make tactical decisions.
  • Last, they conduct simulation exercises and predictive analytics to anticipate the results of the actions they plan to implement.
  • A great example of these three steps was seen in Taiwan's response to COVID-19. 1) Analyzed the lessons learned from the 2003 SARS outbreak and recognized the importance of transparency and agility; 2) created real-time tracks of the stock of masks available in all the pharmacies in the country to prevent panic buying; 3) Conducted a simulated exercise of potential government responses to a second wave.
  • As a result, by September 2020, while the global cases of COVID-19 reached 30 million, they only had 550 cases, despite being neighbors with the country where the virus originated.

    3. Implementation of Statistical and Mathematical Models and Tools for Decision Making

  • Mathematical modeling has been used in research by public agencies and academia for a long-time, but with COVID-19, governments started to realize the importance of real-time statistical models for control and forecasting.
  • They combine mathematical modeling with real-time data to quickly adapt their response to the more current needs.

    4. Use of Real-Time Data as part of the Operations/Solutions Offered

  • According to McKinsey's analysis of Local Government Innovations, governments can use data to improve their service delivery as well and optimize their operations.
  • In Boston, citizens can report vandalized public property, damaged public property, and other municipal problems in real-time through the Citizens Connect mobile application. The app collects every report with geotagging and sends it to the right agency to be solved as soon as possible.
  • For example, when Bostonians complained about the difficulty to arrange trash pickup, the municipality provided real-time and automating pickup dates as a solution.
  • Additionally, the city of Boston created Boston's Street Bump app that uses the mobile's accelerometer to detect bumps on the road while the citizen is driving. Through algorithms, it detects the type of bump and sends the data in real-time to the right crew to repair the street without needing to wait for citizen complaints to be filled.

    5. Additional Statistics of Real-Time Data Usage by Governments

  • The University of Chicago and Results for America found through a national poll that 92% of Americans believe that every policymaker in the US should use the best available data and evidence to support every decision.
  • Between 2018 and 2025, the European Commission expects to see a 530% growth in the volume of global data provided by governments.
  • Having access to more relevant data will help the public sector increase the economic and social benefits of the GDP by 0.1% to 1.5%, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • The State of the Federal Web Report determined that more than 43% of federal agencies don't use Content Management Systems when sharing content online, making the process of sharing data more inefficient. Participants on the National Dialogue on Improving Federal Websites during the Obama presidency recommended that it is time for the Federal Government to use real-time, open-source technology to make content more accessible and enable data sharing.

Case Studies: How Governments and Public Safety Agencies are Using Real-Time Data

    Case 1: Use in Public Utilities

  • To monitor the quality and provision of public utilities, like energy and water, governmental agencies can use remote sensing real-time and near real-time data from ground-based sensors and satellites.
  • Example 1: The municipal government of Shanghai installed sensors throughout the water pipe network of the city so the authorities can use these sensors to determine the exact location of an issue, like leaks. As a result, service disruptions, maintenance costs, response times, and infrastructure damages reduced drastically.
  • Example 2: The platform created by the Indian government, India.Nightlights, monitors the provision of electricity in the 600,000 villages of the country through real-time night light data captured from satellite images.
  • Example 3: To understand sanitation and water services in developing countries, service providers and local governments are working with the SWEET Lab. The governments of Ethiopia and Kenya are using their sensors on water pumps to gather statistics of usage, monitor functionality, and control the performance of the pumps.

    Case 2: Use in Healthcare

  • Local authorities can combine the information found on public health records, social media, news outlets, discussion forums, health websites, mailing lists, and mobile phone data to improve health services and hospital management operations and to monitor results and access feedback in real-time for diseases, insurance processing, nutrition, and vaccinations.
  • Governments also create partnerships with UNICEF and the private sector to facilitate access to information and interpret health data. By using the information provided by the people, the government and health organizations can provide effective support in critical situations.
  • Example 1: Rapidpro, a health program based on real-time data was used to 1) Strengthen social cash transfers for the most vulnerable in Nepal through the Government's Child Grant program; 2) Support maternal and child health in Bangladesh through its integration on the Government's District Health Information System2; 3) Monitor sanitation services in India through the national program Clean India Mission, 4) Connect immunization health workers with the public in Pakistan to control the spread of Polio Tier 1 and other vaccine-preventable diseases; 5) Early detection of children with disabilities in Palestine by the Ministry of Social Development, the National ECD Committee, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education; 6) Monitor primary education enrollment and attendance in Jordan by the Jordan National Aid Fund; 7) Improve real-time data on rural WASH infrastructure in Zimbabwe; 8) Build national health facilities monitoring system in Swaziland; and 9) Upgrade national health information system in Uganda.
  • Example 2: The US Environmental Protection Agency created the AIRNow mobile application that provides real-time air quality information from the Air Quality System (AQS). Citizens can use it to protect their health by getting location-specific reports on current air quality and air quality forecasts for fine particle pollution (PM2.5) and ozone.
  • Example 3: The Ceara State government of Brazil uses the mobile program Proactive Listening to monitor the quality of public health services and coverage with real-time data. The real-time information helps the government to detect emerging problems and take action promptly.
  • Example 4: Flowminder created models to predict the potential routes of disease transmission and mobility of the population using real-time data during West Africa’s 2014 Ebola crisis, creating the Ebola Open Data Initiative. They help the governments through the organization of data resources and the creation of analysis tools that allowed health officials to test multiple scenarios, outcomes, and interventions.

    Case 3: Use in Land Administration

  • By combining imagery from satellites, drones, cloud computing, and computing devices, governments can generate near-real-time data that helps to redesign the processes of land registration and survey methods, improving public revenues, allowing efficient resolution of competing boundary claims, more control of property rights, and better access to credit and finance.
  • Example 1: The government of Kosovo used real-time drone imagery and a tablet to record the information online and formally register the lands. They were able to secure property rights in hours and days.
  • Example 2: The Government of South Africa and Digital Globe use real-time satellite imagery and mobile applications to geo-locate residential dwellings with an address and completing a household survey and digital census to plan and budget accordingly.

    Case 4: Use in Transport and Urban Planning

  • Policymakers are using Satellite imagery, vehicle sensors, cell phones, social media, and video feeds for urban and traffic planning. They combine the information with machine learning and remote sensing to have a better understanding of land usage, urban mobility, and urban change. In the future, this might allow them to make cities more inclusive, sustainable, productive, livable, and resilient.
  • Example 1: Policymakers are using satellite apps, like Big Pixel, to understand the distribution of urbanization, growth, impact, zone changes, transport corridors, etc.
  • Example 2: The OWL bus of Seoul, South Korea uses real-time data analytics to provide a better service to nighttime travelers. It uses calls, texts, taxi data, and corporate data to design bus routes and optimize them to match the passengers’ journeys.

    Case 5: Use in Food Security

  • Big data tools like real-time data, enable governments to create sophisticated analyses to create the best agricultural policies and strategies, through the use of satellite, weather, and crop data.
  • Example 1: The Governments of the US, Africa, and India have tested the solutions provided by Lobell Labs which creates a scalable crop yield map with real-time satellite data to predict crop yields in smallholder and commercial farms.
  • Example 2: Global Pulse has worked with the Government of Indonesia to track food prices through information from social media and crowdsourcing. They use it to track food commodity prices in areas with limited data sources for near-real-time information.

    Case 6: Use in Environmental Policy

  • Environmental and climate real-time data helps authorities to understand and intervene in matters of regional, national, and global environmental impact.
  • Example: Global Forest Watch uses public data, crowdsourcing, and satellite imagery, to track global deforestation and project its impact on climate change. Government and Businesses working with this project use this information to ensure their supply chain and actions are not causing deforestation.

Insights: Future Use of Real-Time Data

    1. Real-Time Data for Official Statistics

  • According to the World Bank Organization, in many countries, the census data is incomplete, outdated, inaccurate, and unreliable. There is a growing need from the statistics community to use big data and machine learning to create statistical proxies that allow better policy decisions and monitoring.
  • Example 1: The Center for International Earth Science Information Network and Facebook Connectivity Lab are trying to produce population Maps in full resolution while Flowminder is already using the real-time data from mobile devices, household surveys, and satellites to create dynamic population maps.
  • Example 2: MIT's Billion Prices Project (BPP) uses global real-time price information from online retailers to create real-time predictions of inflation.
  • Example 3: The sustainability and artificial intelligence lab of Stanford and the World Bank are combining deep learning and real-time satellite imagery to predict and map poverty.

    2. Real-Time Data for Child Protection

  • Cynthia McCaffrey, Director of UNICEF's Office of Innovation, indicated that in the future, Rapidpro, a program that uses real-time data to gather information on vital areas such as health, education, nutrition, and child protection will be scaled up to support governments in 110 countries.
  • This open-source program will help Governments, Municipal Services, Rescue Services, and NGO partners to gather accurate real-time information from anywhere in the world and has already been adopted by the governments of 18 countries to protect children. It is scalable with mobile apps and will help in the coordination of cash assistance programs; provide early detection and response to children with disabilities; and monitor water, hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition interventions.
  • Also, the use of RapidPro in real-time monitoring systems aligns with the national priority to help children in need and in-country development programs.

    3. Real-Time Data Policing

  • The GovTech organization released a list of the Top 100 tech companies in the US that have the potential to make a difference in the future of state and local government agencies, most of these companies are startups looking for investors and bringing innovation.
  • In the most recent list, the companies PredPol from California and CivicScape from Illinois were included for their use of real-time technology that will be available for Public Safety Agencies, like the police force, to provide better protection to the citizens.
  • PredPol uses cloud software technology, mathematics, computer learning, and algorithms to identify the highest risk times and places in real-time and prevent crimes like drug incidents, property crimes, gang activity, gun violence, and traffic accidents. It allows law enforcement agencies to generate daily predictions of the times and places where crime will most likely occur to create effective patrol shifts.
  • CivicScape combines historical crime information and trends, officers' real-time data, and information from the citizens to generate a resource deployment solution for the police to get them to the places where they might be most needed and prevent crime. Their real-time predicting software will become a new standard for Real-Time Policing, according to GovTech.

    4. Real-Time Data for Traffic Control and Accident Prevention

  • Researchers at the University of Central Florida and the City of Orlando are using real-time traffic data to reduce traffic accidents and strategies for a safer road.
  • Mohamed Abdel-Aty, Pegasus Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF) stated that the partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation and the Colorado Department of Transportation will use static and real-time data to analyze and predict safer traffic conditions in real-time.
  • The company HAAS Alert was listed as one of the promising startups on the Top 100 Gov Tech list and its product will help governments with real-time automotive collision prevention SaaS for public safety and roadway fleets.
  • Swiftly is also a promising startup included on the Top 100 Gov Tech list that will help cities move by promising to change transportation and mobility through real-time information and better data.

    5. Real-Time Data is the Future of Government Decision-Making

  • According to the report presented by the World Bank Organization, new opportunities and challenges will come to the governments during the age of big data and real-time data. They will need to create new strategies, tools, and ways to engage and understand the data and respond accordingly to tackle fraud, corruption, improve policymaking processes, generate administrative savings, improve service delivery, and become more responsive and accountable to citizen feedback.
  • Governments will need to strengthen their legal and technical frameworks to use and access the data responsibly. They'll need to 1) Provide clear guidelines and regulation for data use, 2) Foster public-private partnerships, 3) Promote transparency in algorithms, 4) Invest in big data, 5) Understand data as an asset to be valued, shared, and curated and not a result administrative activity.


Research Strategy

While we prioritized analyses and reports focused on the US geography, most of them had a global perspective. We included every example available focused on the US along with relevant examples of the use of real-time data by governments in other countries.

Also, we focused our case studies on clear examples, descriptions, and benefits in different governmental sectors, including multiple examples of its use in those sectors, rather than focusing on a single example. We provided three additional case studies as we considered them relevant and the data was available in our research for the first three.
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