Data for the People: Driving Social Change With Data Analytics
How a State Government in India Is Taking a Data-Driven, Pragmatic Approach to Solving Grand Human Challenges
Written by: Justin Bean, Director of Smart Spaces and Video Intelligence Marketing at Hitachi Vantara
Andhra Pradesh, the eighth largest state in India, is home to approximately 53 million people. Like many states, they are tasked with solving complex challenges such as sustainable resource management, poverty, crime and responding to natural disasters. But unlike most states, Andhra Pradesh has one of the most innovative smart city/smart state programs in the world – an achievement typically attributed to more developed nations, and one that’s making a big difference to its people.
Andhra Pradesh has undertaken a journey of digital transformation to drive economic growth and innovation while creating a safer, more sustainable lifestyle for its people. The state’s ambitious, overarching objective is to achieve the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals for 2030 – only Andhra Pradesh aims to achieve this by 2022.
If that weren’t already enough, this progressive, data-driven government also wants its people to be happy. It has set about using data analytics to quantify what happiness means to its citizenry, what leads to happiness, and what the state can do to make happiness possible for all of its people in a measurable way. To the government of Andhra Pradesh, the “common person” is its customer.
To achieve these lofty goals, Andhra Pradesh inaugurated its Real Time Governance Center, the hub for the state’s coordinated effort to provide real-time monitoring and reporting across its entire ecosystem of 33 departments, including more than 300 agencies offering 745 services. Identifying areas for improvement, the center then uses data to track those improvements with the managers of those departments, agencies and services. The center integrates massive amounts of data gathered from IoT devices, security and traffic cameras that use video analytics, department databases and citizen surveys, along with real-time data from its various functions, to enable constructive real-time governance (RTG).
Emphasizing accountability and transparency for all of its citizens, the state’s RTG initiative takes this approach to enhance several key areas of government:
- Government services such as education, ration and pension distribution, agricultural subsidies, and management of infrastructure resources such as streetlights, water reservoirs, buildings and energy.
- Disaster relief and management, with the goal of predicting dangerous weather events and providing timely warning to citizens prior to the onset of a natural disaster to save lives and reduce the negative impacts.
- Public safety, with the goal of making Andhra Pradesh one of the safest places to live in the world.
Solving human problems with data analytics
Andhra Pradesh has set admirable goals to help improve life for its large population and solve social and economic challenges – many of which are shared by other, similar communities throughout the world. Having an accurate understanding of the current situation and historical trends is key for measuring and solving these issues. However, many cities in both developing and developed nations lack good data and good data management. Manual observation yields only a very small snapshot of what is taking place in any given area. Also, without the holistic view of a society that can be gained from using an electronic or automated approach to collecting, analyzing and drawing insights from data, it’s difficult for agencies to get “apples-to-apples” comparisons and collaborate with each other to achieve their goals.
Data analytics is foundational to Andhra Pradesh’s success in overcoming its challenges and achieving its objectives. For example, the elimination of waste and corruption are important steps to moving toward significant positive social and environmental change. By using data analytics, Andhra Pradesh can track goods or food rations to ensure that they’re not lost or stolen – and that the people they are intended for don’t go hungry.
A role model for data-driven social transformation
Andhra Pradesh’s leaders have the insights and tools they need to improve their citizens’ lives. These aren’t just hopeful utopian visions without a plan – they’re based on measurable information, holistic management and real results. By taking a data-driven approach to creating a better life for its citizens, Andhra Pradesh is not only setting the bar for what positive social change means, it’s also providing a model for how other communities around the world can use pragmatic approaches to solve real human and sustainability challenges – to transition our global civilization to one that will not only survive the decades to come but will help all people thrive along the way.