Witchdoctors, data analytics and trust

By Greg Hallam, CEO, LGAQ
Thursday, 16 May, 2019

Witchdoctors, data analytics and trust

Tell your own story, interpret your own data, create the lens yourself and, above all else, be a trusted source, says LGAQ’s Greg Hallam.

Over the last week I’ve been involved in a series of different but remarkably similar conversations with the most senior members of the Queensland public service, academia and the private sector. The central lesson is the world is converging rapidly into a data-driven, analytics-led, hyper-knowledge existence. We are all on the same journey whatever our role or calling in life, some more quickly than others, but convergence it is unless we unplug and live in a cave.

As consumers, we demand the very best right here, right now. Whether we live in the outback, a Torres Strait Island or the teeming SEQ corner of Queensland, we all have access to the newest and greatest online has to offer. Second-best simply won’t cut it anymore. We are digital and then some. If it is not possible physically to swim on the Great Barrier Reef, ski the slopes of St Moritz or experience the frenetic madness of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor, we can do it sitting at home and using a virtual reality device.

It’s also highly likely that within a decade every man-made and natural object or structure in our world will have a digital twin — unbelievable. With the invention of 3-dimensional microchips the storing of information is virtually limitless. In lots of ways, as citizens and consumers, we’ve never been more enfranchised and enabled, but at the same time frazzled. Every choice, every minute of every day — aargh!

Many of us feel overwhelmed by data, endless information and increasingly, the spin thereon. Who do we believe? Who do we trust? Every day we rely more and more on others to interpret that information for us because to do otherwise would be to drown in it. It’s the age of what the American academic, Robert Reich, 25 years ago called “gold collar workers” or information analysts, the tea leaf readers or soothsayers of past centuries.

Information is not knowledge, it is stored images, dots and dashes or binary notations. Knowledge is the distillation and analysis of that information, interpreting and making sense of it if you wish. Think of courtiers in palaces, even witch doctors, and you can see the significance gold collar workers have enjoyed through the ages. Those who had the ear of the rich and powerful. These days, they exist inside pieces of technology.

This isn’t a harangue against those who write mathematical algorithms, or the big tech companies. Nor is it a conspiracy theory about an elite controlling us. It’s simply recognising trillions of dollars will be spent creating that new world. To stay on top of an information-boundless digital world, interpreting and framing information into knowledge is everything. He or she who makes or shapes the lens through which we look has enormous influence.

At the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) we get that. We also have a higher goal of working in the public interest and earning the councils’ and the community’s trust. It’s the journey that we have been on for a few years, with Sherlock, state-wide Internet of Things networks, online community engagement tools, customisable best practice benchmarking tools and, of course, our own 11-channel media company.

The moral of the story is that both as a sphere of government and as individual councils, tell your own story, interpret your own data, create the lens yourself and, above all else, be a trusted source. If you create a void someone else will fill it for you, and not on your terms. That is why the LGAQ is headed down the road we are on.

Greg Hallam is CEO of the Local Government Association of Queensland. With more than 25 years’ service under his belt, he has visited every settlement in Queensland. This article is a lightly edited version of that which appeared in the LGAQ’s regular newsletter, and is republished with permission.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/anyaberkut

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