Today, data is the very backbone of how society operates. Its value is immense – one just has to look at the multi-billion dollar empires that Facebook and Google have built to show that data has become the new oil. It is the most valuable commodity of our time.
Commodities are valuable for a reason. As oil has become the centre point of our everyday lives – from motoring to commerce, data too has a role to play in how society operates – particularly at government level. This is increasingly apparent as demonstrated by recent government plans to use UK citizen’s data through specific clauses in the Digital Economy Bill.
While using citizen data to make government services better, more agile and more tailored is admirable, it’s important to look at how this data is put to its best use. Looking across Whitehall and beyond, it has been clear for some time that there is a need for greater efficiency, in order to get the most of the data government departments generate and possess.
Amazon Web Services – The Answer To Data Efficiency?
Attending the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in London earlier this month was an eye opening experience and provided a glimpse into how data can be ingested, stored and analysed in the most efficient way – not in the future, but today.
The web giant is currently building a new state-of-the-art data centre in the UK – something that will not be affected by the impending Brexit. At the summit, where talk around the datacentre was front and centre, Amazon also showcased a range of products that will help organisations manage the swathes of data they have at their disposal in the most effective way possible.
This includes a full range of service architecture that automates and simplifies everything from encrypting and managing security to APIs that can build programmes efficiently with much less human requirement. Such offerings are huge time savers and showcase a move away from monolithic services to micro-services.
What this basically means is that from a software architect point of view, design and running vital data focused services have become a lot easier, less time consuming to develop and significantly simpler to scale. The tie in with AWS’ huge new data centre also means that use of storage facilities can be used on a ‘as-you-need-it’ basis.
Whereas currently, a software architect needs to design a system, purchase servers and hire people to maintain any programmes around the clock, now AWS micro-services know what services to implement, when maintenance is needed and when to dedicate server space, automatically.
The Future Of Government Data?
While AWS’s new offerings will no doubt change the way millions of organisations operate and use the data at their disposal – it is governments that will likely benefit the most, not only from better data utilisation, but also the cost savings new AWS offerings bring with them.
Take for instance the processing of student visa applications.
Currently, a team is employed to monitor the visa application system across the year, despite the fact that busy periods will always take place between July and August – prior to the start of the academic year. Using new micro services from AWS, the Home Office would be able to scale down its system during quiet periods and utilise staff skills to work on other things – freeing up thousands of man hours in the process.
Such examples could be replicated across government and become instrumental to revolutionising the way data is used and harnessed, from farming subsidies to tax collection and beyond. Thanks to the services offered by AWS, key data-focussed processes could also be moved out of house – to key agency partners that can switch on and switch off depending on demand from government departments.
Like many things in government, it will take time for the benefits of automated processes, such as those highlighted above, to be taken up. Therefore, it is important for departments to quickly familiarise themselves with the benefits new technology can bring. Products like those revealed from AWS are game changers, but will only have the impact needed if approached in the right way.
Like oil revolutionised the way we operate on a day-to-day-basis and sped up processes from travel to manufacturing, offerings such as these will do the same using the swathes of data that form the epicentre of our everyday lives, in the most impactful way possible.
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