5 questions public sector leaders should be asking about their data


Government agencies and educational institutions across the globe are accelerating their move toward cloud, SaaS, and customer-first digital experiences. The common denominator of all these initiatives? Data. Specifically, the quality and quantity of data you have, where you store it, how you access it, and how quickly you can find what you need. Data, in other words, is one of the public sector’s most strategic assets.

Because of data’s ubiquity, it can be hard to make sense of it holistically, especially when bridging the data silos on teams, departments, and even organizations. To help you focus on the data priorities that will have the most impact on your public sector organization, consider the following five questions.

1. How can you facilitate data sharing?

According to McKinsey, public sector is ranked lowest of 10 industries for customer satisfaction. Public sector organizations have an opportunity to better serve their stakeholders through fast, efficient, and secure digital service delivery.

Creating a good end user experience depends on the data behind the scenes. And data interoperability is key. Increased administrative efficiency from data sharing comes in many forms, including multi-jurisdiction collaboration for public health and safety needs and cross-domain coordination for combat support.

In the US, President Biden issued the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, which directs federal agencies to share data to help provide citizens with fast and quality experiences:

“Customers often navigate services across multiple agencies in specific moments of need, such as when they are seeking financing for their businesses or experiencing food insecurity. In such situations, relevant agencies should coordinate their service delivery to achieve an integrated experience that meets customer needs through the exchange of data with appropriate privacy protections.”

Students and citizens have grown accustomed to consumer-based websites and apps that are fast, efficient, and require minimal effort. They’re going to expect the same from the public sector, whether they’re filling out complex forms online, applying to renew a passport or government ID, or searching for the information they need on a university’s website.

Look for a data platform — ideally based in the cloud — that can serve as a single source of truth among multiple organizations. The platform should provide user visibility into who is accessing data, as well as the flexibility to scale with increased amounts of data.

[Related article: 5 ways search can modernize digital experiences in public sector]

2. Is data strengthening your infrastructure resilience?

The global average cost of a data breach was $4.35 million in 2022 — a record high. And 83% of organizations say they’ve been a victim of a cyberattack.

Just as data is the foundation of your digital transformation strategy, it’s also the target of modern cyberattacks. Data, in other words, is a hacker’s weapon. To prevent bad actors from accessing your critical data, you need to collect as much of your own data as possible, so you can analyze it, act on it, and share it as threat intelligence. 

Current policies — such as the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity — require agencies to collect and retain network and systems logs for investigation and remediation. They must also couple insights from this data with endpoint detection and response capabilities. Contextual, time-stamped data about user, device, and tool integration activities are essential in building resilience in the form of prevention, detection, and response to cyber threats.

3. Do you have a data-based culture?

There’s more to data and to digital transformation than technology. As your team moves to cloud and digital, there’s also a cultural shift you’ll need to make internally. One aspect is to consider the structure and skills of your team and upskill as necessary.Public sector leaders should build a data-based culture by investing in hands-on learning that prioritizes data as a strategic asset and data relevance as an operational advantage.Not only will this investment support employee productivity and employment initiatives, but a World Economic Forum study shows that an investment in upskilling will boost the global GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030. 

4. Are you thinking about AI and ML?

As public sector agencies work to make their citizen and student services more efficient, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help expedite the forward movement.

AI, powered by machine learning (ML), relieves, splits up, replaces, or augments tasks. In the US, public sector organizations are expected to spend $1.7 billion on AI by 2025. Government and education leaders alike embrace AI, but they acknowledge that its use must be thoughtfully planned, implemented, and audited.

One of the most purposeful applications of AI, and ML specifically, is in anomaly detection. Whether detecting unusual security information and event management (SIEM) behavior in a security operations center (SOC) or catching poor application performance in a school district’s IT infrastructure, ML combined with drag-and-drop visualizations can uncover data hotspots that the human eye would otherwise miss. When applying approachable ML and detection technologies, data is more powerful than ever before.

[Related article: Public sector security: 4 considerations for implementing a modern SIEM]

5. What else can you ask your data platform to do?

Public sector agencies are consistently asked to do more with less. Leaders and teams are spending time analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and what’s too expensive. Along the way, they’re looking for ways to consolidate data tools and reduce tech debt.If you already have a trusted platform for your data, then why not make that platform do more work for you? The data’s already there. Many organizations are using one data platform for multiple use cases, leveraging the speed and scale that it can provide, without adding additional vendors to integrate, manage, and pay for.For example, your data platform can provide visibility into your technology ecosystems, and fast, reliable access to data is the foundation for DevSecOps to build and test apps, especially in a software factory model. That same data foundation — especially when it operates quickly at scale — can also power your cybersecurity strategy, leveraging data logs to quickly detect and respond to threats. 

Learn more about how data drives public sector missions

To learn more about public sector data trends, success stories, and how Elastic solutions can help you meet your mission goals with data, read the Maximizing Data Utility in Mission Delivery white paper.