The day-to-day of digital transformation: how governments are honing their data strategies

By on 24/11/2022 | Updated on 24/11/2022
A world map set against columns of data

As governments amass ever larger sums of data to keep pace with the growth of digital public services, big questions loom about how they’re using the information they have, and how they plan to get the information they need

Most citizens know and accept that government needs certain data of theirs to function, especially in times of crisis. During the coronavirus pandemic, governments worldwide were able to use citizen data to identify vulnerable children for educational support, to furlough people whose job security diminished in lockdown, and to provide food deliveries to elderly and vulnerable citizens.

These examples show why harnessing data to best effect is one of many governments’ biggest day-to-day operational challenges. These challenge comes both from within government and from the swirl of public discourse around its access to data. For example, the way government entities share data can often hinder the information necessary to improving services from reaching the right teams. In other cases, datasets are simply not accessible, or are updated infrequently or inconsistently.

In a webinar entitled ‘Getting the most out of government data’, Oliver Wise, chief data officer, US Department of Commerce, Antonio Manzi, national director of transfers and data analysis at the Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay, Ott Velsberg, government chief data officer at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia, and knowledge partner SAS’s Henrik Ernlund Pedersen, country manager for Denmark and head of public sales for the Nordics, came together to explore what can be done to overcome these obstacles at this vital juncture for digital government.

The conversation included these highlights:

Oliver Wise described the role of the chief data officer in promoting value from data to solve big problems


Wise also laid out the three ways in which he and his team seek to get the most value out of its data

Antonio Manzi, National Director, Transfers and Data Analysis, Ministry of Social Development, Uruguay spoke about the challenge of making sure data government creates are of high quality


He added that governments need to ask themselves why they are collecting and choosing to share data in the first place


Henrik Ernlund Pedersen, Country Manager Denmark & Head of Public Sales Nordic, SAS, shared a few facts about Denmark that explain why Danes exhibit high trust in government. He went on to explain why public trust plays an instrumental role in governments’ use of data

Henrik also explain how during the pandemic, government departments learned the value of being able to share data and formed closer collaborations

Finally, Henrik pointed to the current challenge his country faces in there is urgently needing to speed up the application of welfare technology, which will require data and AI in order to keep pace with its ageing population

Ott Velsberg, Government Chief Data Officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Estonia, described some of his country’s objectives for the remainder of the decade in the fields of data transparency, AI, and human-centred public service design

Velsberg then went on to describe the Estonian government’s plan to make a data tracker as well as its recently rolled out consent service. The first of these services will allow citizens to see how government is processing their data, while the second currently allows them to take the reins in sharing their government health data with the private sector

Wise gave his position on how governments can effectively break down silos, a major hinderance to optimising the use and of data

Finally, our audience ask how the quality of data in government gets checked? How do governments know if data is reliable, especially when they’re using it for AI and automation purposes?  Velsberg gave his answer:

To learn all this and more, you can watch the full Getting the most out of government data webinar. The webinar – hosted by Global Government Forum with the support of knowledge partner SAS – was held on 1 November 2022.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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