Government organizations are bombarded with huge amounts of data on a daily basis. But do they understand and use this data to make better decisions and better serve their citizens? Or, can they turn this information into actionable intelligence?

Broadly speaking, two different groups of people can take action on this data—employees and customers. Let’s take a look at how one government organization—the city of Houston, Texas—is enabling its customers to take action on the intelligence from its organization’s data.

The city of Houston publishes all of its 311 Service Requests on its public website in a variety of ways, including on a map. The map is interactive, allowing customers to move the map around, zoom in and out, and filter the map based on service request status. And, they can also click on any individual service request to look more closely at what it represents. For example, a user can click on a parking meter service request at a specific intersection to check its status.

This is a great example of open data, allowing customers to see what the city is working on (and where) and helping to enable them to take action on this intelligence in a number of ways, including:

  • Whether or not to request a service based on whether the city already knows about it
  • Helping customers make more informed decisions about where to live, for example

The city of Houston recently received a “highly commended” Best Web Experience honor for this innovative use of its data. And the benefits are not just to the customer—they also benefit the city, which has achieved payback in less than two months as this capability handles the work equivalent of approximately 11 agents. This amounts to annual savings of approximately $500,000.

Frank Carmody, Assistant Director, Operations with the city of Houston told me that “with Web self-service, the citizen becomes the agent.” I love this idea. The citizen has knowledge at their fingertips, just like contact center employees. Citizens armed with knowledge can better help themselves and help make their neighborhoods and city better places to live.

However, it goes even deeper than that. With all of this data at their fingertips, citizens are now also becoming data analysts.

All of this information and sharing of data is achieving two goals—helping make governments smarter and more efficient, and empowering citizens to make more informed decisions to improve their city.

As such, the city of Houston is a great example of smarter government for smarter citizens.