Public sector data execs unsure about role

A report on chief data officers in the public sector says almost half are unsure of what their job involves and how they are supposed to do it.

Geoff Thomas

The Emergence of the Public Sector Chief Data Officer in APAC  report, commissioned by software company Qlik, focuses ot the emerging public sector CDO community in Australia, NZ, India and Singapore.

US legislators formalised the position of CDO in 2018 and equivalent positions are emerging across the Asia Pacific, including Australia.  Despite this, government agencies are yet to find an appropriate title for their data chiefs, the report shows.

There’s also uncertainty about reporting lines for the job, and generally, what it actually involves.

Digital disruption and covid

Qlick’s APAC Senior vice president Geoff Thomas says CDOs are currently navigating a rapidly changing landscape disrupted by digital transformation and most recently a global pandemic.

But there are also lessons.

Sixty-eight per cent of Australian CDOS – compared to 62 per cent across the region – said the covid crisis  had highlighted shortfalls in their data strategy and three quarters across the board said they should have invested more in data initiatives.

The report surveyed 103 senior public sector data executives across the four counties in January 2021, to gain an insight into their concerns, challenges and priorities.

Forty-seven per cent said they lacked clarity on job definition and execution.

Source: Emergence of the Public Sector Chief Data Officer in the APAC

The report also says government leaders still have a low understanding about the value of data in decision making.

Only 36 per cent of agencies see data governance as a priority and only 65 per cent routinely rely on data insights when making critical decisions.

Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of public sector organisations have yet to set up a data governance body.

Lack of experience

Mr Thomas says the public sector CDO is still an emerging role in the APAC and the current tranche of data executives are relatively new to the job, with 57 per cent having less than two years experience in the role and hardly any having been in the role longer than five years.

Source: Emergence of the Public Sector Chief Data Officer in the APAC.

“Public sector CDOs in APAC need to help their organisations understand the value of data and create a data-literate culture which enables employees to act on it,” Mr Thomas said.

The report says countries like Singapore and the US have benefitted from viewing data as an important cornerstone of corporate governance and calls for the role of CDO to be supported and developed within the public sector.

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