SG Public Sector CDOs Regret Overlooking Data Governance

Image credit: iStockphoto/metamorworks

Singapore’s Government is well known for its data-driven ambitions. After all, the city-state is pushing for more data sharing, launching various data initiatives, and is fashioning itself as an AI hub.

However, a recent Qlik report, titled “Emergence of the Public Sector Chief Data Officer in Asia Pacific,” found that the lack of attention to data governance could be hobbling its ambitions and resulting in lost opportunities for data-driven healthcare services.  

According to 80% of public sector chief data officers (CDOs) surveyed in Singapore, they “regret not having invested more in more data-driven initiatives before the pandemic hit.” These initiatives could have helped citizens manage the COVID-19 crisis better, the report noted.

The report, prepared by research and consultancy firm Omdia and commissioned by Qlik, analyses the state of the public sector CDO community as governments continue to adjust to a landscape disrupted by the pandemic and digital transformation. It covers four Asia Pacific (APAC) countries – Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and India – and surveyed 103 senior public sector data executives to reveal these CDOs’ concerns, challenges, and priorities.

It’s not that public sector CDOs in Singapore lack an appreciation of data governance.

Eighty percent of CDOs in Singapore (vs. 65% across APAC) saw the value of data for making mission-critical decisions. They also appreciate its role in building management support and broadening the awareness of data’s value in decision-making.

Yet, the same number of respondents felt there was significant room for improving data governance across government agencies — especially as data volumes and complexity grow. The fact that two in five (40%) government agencies in Singapore have yet to seize the opportunity to set up a data governance body is telling.

Part of the reason could be that public sector CDOs are busy with other priorities. In the report, 80% of respondents said that analytics and BI technology are the top resourcing priority but noted technical and strategic challenges in implementing them. These include integrating data, finding the right technology partner, and upskilling public sector workers.

Like all other industries, finding the right talent or skills is also proving to be a struggle. Data analytics (60%), data science (35%), and data policy (35%) ranked as the most sought-after skills among public sector organizations in Singapore.

Data literacy is also proving to be a considerable challenge. The CDOs in Singapore surveyed expressed the need to establish a corporate culture of using data to support decisions (65%) and a more data literate workforce (55%). 

Another huge challenge to data governance is that the role of the public sector CDO is only just emerging within Singapore companies.

While their role is becoming more prominent in the government sector, many agencies need to better define the reporting structures. For example, 35% of those surveyed stated that their jobs lacked clarity in job definition, job execution, or both (vs. 47% across APAC). 

There is still time. Public sector CDOs can drive data governance initiatives as they reposition themselves beyond COVID-19 in the next twelve months and see many of their data initiatives become more strategic and outcome-focused. Key priorities would include improving the availability of metadata for users (50%), introducing new technologies (45%), and achieving a data strategy with a one-year action plan (45%).

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