The Case for Government Investment in Analytics

By Jane Wiseman • September 3, 2019


Government stands to gain $1 trillion globally from using data analytics. Few government data teams have the resources to document their value, but those that do can show as much as eight-to-one return on their cost. There is significant non-financial benefit as well, as public faith in government may improve when saving time and money is paired with increased transparency and accountability.

Many leading governments are already innovating with data and improving results, but these exemplars remain in the minority. While there are over 30,000[2] units of local government, only two dozen local governments have a data leader who participates in the Civic Analytics Network, a peer network of data leaders hosted by Harvard Kennedy School. Similarly small numbers of state and federal data leaders are in place. And fewer still have been able to document the concrete value of their results.

How can other state and local governments tap into this potential for public value? And how can they measure their impact and demonstrate value? This paper documents successful data analytics efforts in government and describes approaches to calculating returns. The purpose of this paper is to enable jurisdictions to make the case for investment in data analytics with a goal of advancing the state of data-driven government.

While there are many possible ways to describe the value to government of using data, this paper addresses three types of value created:

  • Financial return attributable to analytics efforts;
  • Operational process improvements achieved due to data and analytic approaches; and
  • Increased faith in government attributable to data and transparency efforts.

With increasing availability of low-cost tools and large volumes of data for analytics, now is an excellent time for further investment in government analytics capabilities. Low cost and user-friendly analytics tools such as visualization and dashboarding allow for pattern analysis. Advanced analytic models can identify and predict negative outcomes that would have been overlooked by human judgment alone. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, drones, and modern mapping tools have rapidly increased the availability and speed of location-based data analysis. In this environment, government leaders should carefully examine the successful examples here of providing financial benefit, operational efficiency, and improved faith in government.



About the Author

Jane Wiseman

Jane Wiseman is an Innovations in American Government Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. She leads the Institute for Excellence in Government, a non-profit consulting firm dedicated to improving government performance.  She has served as an appointed official in government and as a financial advisor and consultant to government.  Her current consulting, research, and writing focus on government innovation and data-driven decision-making.  She supports an effort to create a national network of urban Chief Data Officers to accelerate the use of analytics in local government.  She has advised the US cities funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies in their Mayors Challenge competition.  She has written on customer-centric government, data-driven decision-making in government, pretrial justice, and 311 for a variety of audiences. 

Her prior consulting work has included organizational strategy, performance management and eGovernment strategy work for Accenture and Price Waterhouse.  Selected clients include the National Governor’s Association, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Criminal Justice Association, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the United States Postal Service, the State of Michigan, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Department of Commerce. 

Ms. Wiseman has served as Assistant Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and as Assistant to the Director for Strategic Planning, National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice.  Ms. Wiseman represented the Justice Department on detail as a Staff Assistant for the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.  Ms. Wiseman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Smith College and a Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.