The government could harness big data if it improved information gathering from UK citizens, according to research from market research firm YouGov and business analytics software provider SAS.
The ‘Communicating with the Citizen' survey took into account the responses of 2,160 British citizens. It found that 82 per cent of Britons have never knowingly provided false information in a government agency form, suggesting that the public sector could collect a central repository of reliable and valuable data.
To do this, YouGov and SAS have encouraged the government to maximise its response rates to official communications. Respondents suggested that the government could maintain or improve communication by clarifying what information is being asked for, using simpler language and having the ability to complete forms and payments online.
"In a document we tend to see significance in the way things are arranged and in their relative prominence. The high volume of participants who listed these as improvement areas for the public sector to focus on, is evidence that simplified government agency forms will make the process of gathering and providing information easier for everyone," said Gerry Leonidas, senior lecturer in typography at the University of Reading.
The study also found that the channel of communication was also highly relevant for maximising data capture and that despite the growth in online and mobile in recent years, a hard copy letter (50 per cent) is the favoured method for receiving general government agency communications, followed by email (37 per cent).
Bernard Baker, director, public sector at SAS UK & Ireland, explained that if the public sector adjusts its methods in line with the survey's responses, it will improve the value of the data being collected, and this information can then be analysed to help the government to improve services.
"By sourcing data of such a high calibre, individual agencies and central government will be better equipped to segment data, perform better profiling of citizens and improve overall citizen intelligence through high-performance analytics.
"Gaining the ability to identify subgroups within the community and then pinpoint the best methods to communicate with those specific demographics will put public servants in a much stronger position to provide citizens with improved services," he said.
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