Podcast 🎧 & blog: Data quality as the basis of informed decision-making

08.11.2023 | Federico Plantera

Whether in population management, or more specific business processes and use cases, we can’t stress enough the significance of digital data quality. Because tidy registries equate to informed decision-making, and the possibility to build powerful tools and solutions on top of them.

In this episode of the Digital Government Podcast, we expand on how ensuring data quality might be an overlooked yet essential aspect of advancing digital transformation. And prepare governments for the next wave of data-hungry innovation – artificial intelligence and machine learning. Piret Saartee joins us to do just that, as the Head of the Competence Centre on Data and Services at the e-Governance Academy (eGA).

At the very essence of digital data

In understanding the essence of digital data, it’s necessary to recognise its transformative power in modern governance. Digital data refers to electronically represented information that machines can understand, and not just static images or scanned documents. Secondly, distinguishing metadata from actual content sheds light on the complexity of data. This differentiation is not merely a technical nuance. It serves as the cornerstone of enabling effective data processing by machines, facilitating data analysis and, consequently, informed decision-making.

In Saartee’s view, the significance of data in the digital realm underscores the urgency of shifting from conventional paper-based systems to electronic data. The latter allows not only for easier access but, crucially, for machine-readable formats – a feature increasingly relevant in the context of contemporary technology and AI applications. The case is made for such shift to be a need, in reality, for the modern governance landscape to evolve effectively.

The benefits of ensuring quality of data

The benefits of correct data extend far beyond mere accuracy: they are intertwined with the very basis of informed decision-making. Data-driven decision-making is a fundamental pillar of governance, but it does underline the necessity of having accurate, well-organised information. Correct data is pivotal in tailoring services and policies to the needs of citizens, Saartee explains.

But the quality of data does not solely impact governance. The private sector, in fact, may benefit from it as well. High-quality, open data plays a critical role in fostering economic growth, encouraging innovation, and facilitating business development. After all, as we often state, an effective and inclusive digital society entails seeing many, diverse actors benefit from the use of technology. In this context, maintaining good data quality can be seen as a shared responsibility as well, one that contributes significantly to efficient governance processes and cost-saving measures.

Enablers and practices for effective data management

The shift towards data governance and quality management, Saartee says, should not be just an effort to carry out from time to time. It’s not an isolated project, but an ongoing, intrinsic part of service lifecycles.

In this sense, for example, governments and organisations may try to strike a new balance between prioritising the delivery of new services, versus investing time and resources into robust data management. Paying attention to the second might reschedule the first, yes, but dramatically improve both the maintenance and roll out of existing and additional services. If not even make or break them.

In this, governments are not alone. And do not have to reinvent the wheel, either. Effective data management relies on enablers and established practices, as Saartee explains in detail. People, processes, and technologies must function seamlessly in synchrony. The delineation of the roles, responsibilities, and rules within this framework must also be in place.

What we learned, moving forward

E-Governance Academy experts have helped governments improve their data management practices moving from these standpoints. And our key lesson learned is that governments are increasingly recognising the importance of data governance, its foundational role in digital transformation.

Cooperation and knowledge sharing are central, and frameworks for data management are essential. Capacity building and training data specialists have become significant trends, as our experience in Estonia, Ukraine and beyond has shown. Each government’s context may vary, but the core principles of data management remain consistent and applicable worldwide.

The power of digital data is undeniable. It is the cornerstone upon which governments can build informed policies, deliver efficient services, and respond to crises effectively. As Saartee highlights, ensuring data quality and good management supports data-driven decision-making, personalised services, and transparent governance.

Governments worldwide face evolving challenges, perhaps at times even from innovation itself. The proper handling of digital data, naturally, makes then for an essential component of success and effective digital transformation.


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