In late April, Deloitte’s Kaustav Halder was flipping through his morning news when a story about a streaming service caught his eye. Its subscription growth fell dramatically over the previous three months, which was unexpected given its performance throughout the pandemic. “It was completely unprecedented,” he said.
To Kaustav, who specialises in AI and simulation at Deloitte, this was an example of how an organisation’s historical data can’t always be relied upon to make accurate predictions. “You can’t always base decisions on historical precedents because sometimes things change,” he says. “You have to learn from a more short-term view to make sure that your predictions are more accurate for the future.”
Deloitte coined the term “effervescent data” to describe this short-term information. According to an article written by data and analytics partner, Nadun Muthukumarana, effervescent data, which provides agility and accuracy in decision-making, will become increasingly important to how the public sector delivers citizen services. “What we’re seeing is that long-term predictions aren’t as accurate today, because things keep changing,” Nadun tells CSW. “Until things settle down, then the whole way of using data effectively to deliver public services has to be on a short- to medium-term basis.”
Effervescent data is just one element of Deloitte’s vision for a post-Covid world where services are delivered in a more proactive, curated manner. For Nadun, the most important piece to get right is cross-government data sharing. “Organisations need to share information with the sole intention of improving services,” he says. “Ultimately the goal should be to deliver seamless, tailored citizen services.” If someone unfortunately loses their job, for example, Nadun would like to see the relevant government departments and agencies pool their data so the person receives the full range of support they’re entitled to in a rapid manner. “These organisations have to come together to form a single view of citizens who need support,” he says. He adds that this sort of collaborative work has been hugely scaled up since the start of the pandemic, but there’s still not cross-governmental mechanisms to do it in a systematic way. Nadun adds, “In order for tailored citizen services to work, we also need to have public trust on our side. The public sector needs to continue to improve public trust through increased transparency and communication”.
In addition to looking to better use of data to improve citizen services, Kaustav and Nadun also have their eye on a few cutting-edge technologies. Digital twins, or virtual representations of physical objects, are something that Kaustav believes holds a lot of promise for the public sector. “In my mind these simulations are going to really leverage how we look at technology in the future,” he says. “If we can’t rely on historical precedence, then we need to use simulation to create more ‘what-if’ scenarios.”
Train timetables are a prime example of how simulations can improve public sector services. Deloitte helped two transport operators optimise their timetables by building a digital replica of train routes and testing them before putting trains on the track. “We basically used AI to identify hotspots or delays across multiple timetables,” Kaustav says. But since AI is often based on historical data, Deloitte added another element to generate new, alternative timetables: gaming technology. “It was the combination of simulation and gaming technology that really gave us accuracy in the train logistics, like how the trains move at speed, velocity, and braking,” Kaustav says. “We were able to finetune timetables that were much more robust to be deployed to the public.”
Not only does gaming technology have the advantage of helping to accurately stress test various scenarios before they’re put to practice, it’s also user-friendly, Nadun says. “Gaming technology, with its high-quality graphics and visualisation, is the perfect human interface to link complex stuff like AI with the end users of public services.”
Whether it’s gaming, AI, simulations, or effervescent data, the developments that Deloitte is focused on ultimately tie into what Kaustav and Nadun call the tailored citizen experience. “We think that the citizen journey can be tailored to the point that services can be provided automatically without having to ask for them from all the relevant organisations,” Nadun says. “That’s the dream, that’s the ultimate vision.”
“Everything we do is for the good of the citizen,” Kaustav adds. “And the use of data and technologies like simulation and digital twins can drive proactive, personalised citizen services.”