Technology can overcome public sector data privacy concerns

A new report finds that collaborative data ecosystems help governments to craft a response to systemic challenges, but widespread adoption is yet to come

Technology that enables data sharing between government departments is driving important benefits like saving costs, improving citizen engagement and enabling better decision-making.

But despite these benefits and progress, people-based challenges remain a barrier – namely concerns about data security, trust, and working culture.

According to a new report from the Capgemini Research Institute, ‘Connecting the Dots: Data sharing in the public sector’, the majority (80%) of public sector organisations have started implementing collaborative data ecosystems initiatives, recognising the need for a joined-up, data-driven approach to tackle the complex challenges they are facing. However, most are at the early stages of implementation, and few have deployed data ecosystems at scale. Besides the challenges of technology, people-based challenges are the main concern – specifically, culture and trust.

Capgemini’s research reveals that those that have deployed collaborative data ecosystems or are in the midst of a deployment phase - are already realising significant benefits of effective data sharing, including an improved citizen experience, and better data-driven policymaking.

Tackling operational and societal challenges with effective data sharing

The report finds that collaborative data ecosystems are helping public sector organisations across key functional areas including administration, security and defence, tax and customs, and welfare. For instance, 81% of local, state and central administrations that have deployed or are deploying data ecosystems say that they improved citizen engagement and 69% their sustainability roadmaps.

In addition, citizens are able to benefit from better government services such as a more targeted delivery of welfare programs for the most vulnerable citizens and improved public safety, police departments citing notably better juridical implementation and improved response times.

“Whether it’s the pandemic, societal issues such as youth unemployment, or the climate and biodiversity crises: the challenges we face today require a joined-up response from our governments. That’s why they have to share data systematically,” comments Marc Reinhardt, Global Industry Leader for Public Sector at Capgemini. “Creating a culture where decision-making is informed by real-time data is a long-term journey. All players in the data ecosystem must have trust and confidence. But the measurable benefits to citizens’ experience and government efficiency show that data sharing improves outcomes.”

Adoption trends and barriers

The report finds that barriers related to trust, culture, and technology are currently impeding wider adoption. For example, 56% of respondents face one or more trust-related challenges; it includes challenges such as citizen resistance to sharing data and a lack of trust in the quality of the data involved.

The research also highlights the critical role of talent. Public sector organisations require the availability of the right skill sets and the presence of a data-driven culture within their organisations, in addition to developing a holistic skilling program to equip employees with the necessary data management and AI skills, as well as skills related to managing data privacy. Only 55% of organisations have reported having trained employees on the ethical use of citizen data.

Building trust with privacy preservation technology

Embedding security and privacy by design is critical to the success of collaborative data ecosystems to allow public organisations to balance the benefits of data sharing with the need to safeguard data privacy. This also requires developing strong governance structures, data mesh architectures[2] as well as the use of Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) such as differential privacy[3], federated learning[4], and homomorphic encryption[5].

Read the full report here.

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