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Thursday, 30 August 2018 12:08

SAS says analytics key to better government policy, security

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Global analytics software firm SAS claims it is helping governments improve policy making and security analysis.

In business, big data is serious business and ripe for analysis. The rise of the Internet of Things, increased focus on metrics, and the pure grunt available through cloud computing all combine to give business great insights from data-led analytics.

Yet, historically government is an area where most ordinary folk would think inertia is the methodology, not agile frameworks. Can analytics really help the public service make better, faster, cheaper government decisions?

The answer is a solid "yes," according to Dr Steve Bennett, director of Global Government Practice, SAS, who was speaking to iTWire while visiting Australia in August.

"The way we view analytics is the scientific transformation of data into information for decision making," he says.

These decisions could be tactical, strategic or policy, Bennett explains, providing a raft of scenarios where SAS has ably worked with governments for the public good.

For example, aiding caseworkers in identifying families to check on.

Or integrating public opinion into policy via rigorous text analysis on commentary from the people on how they think, and observing how this trends over time.

Or identifying fraud and where benefits programs are leaking money to help ensure the government remains a good steward of public funds.

Or providing real-time information on vehicles moving in and out of a country's borders to manage illegal drug and immigration concerns without limiting trade and travel, aiding border security forces to prioritise higher-risk vehicles within limited time and resources.

Data is only part of the story, however. "When we work with agencies we don't just work hard on the technology but also culture and processes," Bennett says.

While in Australia Dr Bennett spent time with different State Governments, including the ACT, speaking of SAS' achievements in the US and how Australian Governments can also make the most of limited resources.

Australian Governments were interested in how to improve policy around corrections, increasing the pace of policy movement, and especially how to aid overloaded case workers in identifying children at risk of abuse and neglect.

Dr Bennett also spoke to the Australian intelligence community around applying analytics to matters of policing and national intelligence.

On this topic, Bennett explains he spent 12 years in the US Department of Homeland Security prior to joining SAS. It was the dramatic and unforgettable events of 11 September 2001 which moved him to passionately pursue the application of analytics in keeping people safe.

After the event, many pieces of information were retrospectively identified that indicated the terrorist plot.

Yet, conversely, just as the Manchester bombers in the UK were on "a list" so were 20,000 other people.

Identifying people after an incident has happened is one thing. "SAS is focusing on intelligence-led analytics and what we can do now to get left of an incident, to pick up the cues, and enable intelligence services and the police."

"Analytics can save lives," Dr Bennett says.

SAS is already working with Victoria Police on collecting and analysing data and delivering relevant information to forces on the ground, colloquially referred to as "the connected cop".

This project leverages SAS' Intelligence and Information Management product, which is highly integratable with other products including open source technologies. "It's built for cops and intelligence operators," Bennett says. "People, not PhDs. It's a new way of doing business and a new approach for us."

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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