Blog Post

November 22, 2022

The promise of data: How can we connect ourselves out of crisis?

‍In the face of compounding global crises, governments are leveraging the power of data to support innovative initiatives across sectors. When properly employed, data and AI can unlock new ways of tackling multidimensional crises through cross-sector collaboration, targeted policy design, & consistent tracking of impacts. In this blog, we outline several case studies of data being effectively collected, integrated, and analysed to equip governments with new tools to address our current crises around climate, health systems, security and the economy.

Today, governments across the world are facing multiple, often simultaneous , threats to social, political, economic, and environmental systems. Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated health processes and systems as well as economic conditions; the war between Russia and Ukraine has put a strain on energy and cost of living crises; and a changing climate has led to a marked increase in record-breaking heat waves, droughts, and other natural disasters in 2022 alone. 

At PUBLIC, we believe in the potential for data to support governments to respond to multidimensional crises; track their effects over time;  and predict future developments. This, in turn, will improve governments’ ability to develop targeted interventions that facilitate multi-stakeholder coordination and yield successful outcomes.

In this piece, we highlight international initiatives focused on experimenting with data and AI to develop innovative solutions to manage and mitigate crises. For an extended analysis evaluating the role that technology in general can play in tackling these problems, check out our recent whitepaper on “Government Technology in an Age of Crisis.”

Data and AI: The Potential 

When collected, integrated, and analysed properly, data can generate holistic, system-level understandings of complex events. While data and AI can be leveraged in a wide variety of ways to improve services across the public sector, they play a particularly important role in 1) predicting and driving multi-stakeholder collaboration; 2) enabling targeted policy; and 3) designing effective intervention. This in turn improves service delivery in the mitigation of environmental, health, security and economic crises. 

1. Building Climate Resilience

The race to achieving Net Zero and combating climate change has resulted in a sizable increase in monitoring and measuring carbon emissions. Many of the initiatives that have emerged in recent years have focused on the development of better frameworks and methodologies to measure and track emissions across sectoral ecosystems, as well as the integration of data systems to drive better insights, coordination, and efficiencies. 

Case Studies

  • Digital Twin Initiative (Denmark): As part of the Danish government’s mission to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030, it has focused attention on the Danish domestic and international shipping industries, which together emit nearly 39 million tons of CO2 annually. In an effort to promote energy efficiency, the Danish Maritime Authority has launched a “digital twin” initiative to develop a platform that enables the sharing, analysis, and management of all relevant fleet and ship data to facilitate coordination and risk management among the widest range of stakeholders involved in shipping operations. The digital twin platform combines state-of-the-art engineering models and analytics with asset specific operational data to create digital simulations and information models that are updated and changed throughout the lifecycle of their physical counterparts. This asset management platform will unlock efficiencies by automating vessel documentation and reporting, and by promoting collaboration and system integration in design, construction, and commissioning of ships.
  • Net Zero Systems Tool (U.K.): the British Civil Service are piloting an initiative to collate a range of data sources from across the UK’s net zero ecosystem to develop a systems visualisation tool that will unlock insights into the interdependencies between key sources of CO2 emissions, and model the potential impacts of various policy interventions that would target them.
  • U.K. Shared Digital Carbon Architecture (U.K.): the British Department for Transport, in partnership with its Arms-Length Bodies, Network Rail and Highways England, the Environment Agency, Infrastructure Projects Authority, and Homes England, are testing a ‘Digital Carbon Architecture’ that improves the way carbon data is captured, managed and exploited across the transportation system in order to identify and target high emitting systems. 

2. Enhancing National Security

Data continues to play a central role in generating accurate intelligence and credible risk assessments in both offline and online environments. Better data enables faster and accurate decision making, improved shared situational awareness, and the development of digital training environments. Examples of proactive utilisation and creation of tools which leverage data can be found around the world, we highlight some examples below.

Case Studies

  • Diia App (Ukraine): In 2020, Ukraine’s Ministry for Digital Transformation launched an app that allows citizens to access over 70 public services online, which now nearly half of the population use regularly. In response to Russia’s attacks, Michail Fedorov, the Digital Minister, has led a variety of innovative projects to repurpose and expand the app to include services and features useful for defence and security purposes. One new feature is an air raid notification system that alerts citizens at the start and end of missile, artillery, chemical, and radiation emergencies. Another is “eEnemy,” a telegram chatbot which allows citizens to send geolocation, photos, and videos to the Ukrainian Armed Forces of enemy equipment, explosive objects, and war criminals with the opportunity to describe what they saw in text.

3. Driving Health Outcomes

Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for the digital transformation of public health services across the globe. Governments are applying data and AI in new and innovative ways to improve medical research, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as in care delivery and coordination of health systems. Below we illustrate examples of how data and AI are being leveraged to enable remote patient monitoring, coordinate health emergencies, and explore interdependencies between health and economic outcomes to develop more targeted and holistic care interventions.

Case Studies

  • e-Ambulance Solution (Estonia): Estonia has developed an e-ambulance solution which enables the swift exchange of critical health information in the provision of emergency ambulance services. Using a citizen’s digital ID number, paramedics can request and immediately receive that individual’s critical health information - such as blood type, allergies, pregnancy status, and recent treatments - from a central database to improve emergency care response. 
  • Digital People to Improve Health Outcomes (New Zealand): Aukland’s Bioengineering Institute is partnering with Soul Machines - a New Zealand AI company that designs intelligent and emotionally responsive avatars - to explore how the avatars could be used to monitor people’s health and provide support in managing conditions - particularly Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The initiative will “involve linking in-home and body-worn sensor data with a digital health navigator that can ‘read’ patient-specific information and ‘talk’ to a patient in real time to help them better understand and manage their condition.” Another team led by Empathic Computing Lab will integrate Soul Machine’s avatars with software developed using wearable sensors, such as watches and smartphones, to monitor an individual’s wellbeing through physiological cues such as heart rate, speech, and activity and provide personalised feedback and advice via a digital person on their phone. 
  • Understanding long-term Covid-19 health and employment outcomes on vulnerable groups (U.K.): This pilot will establish and analyse a dataset which links personal and household characteristics to health and labour market outcomes to enable the government to analyse the impact of Covid-19 on multiple groups to better target resources for a fair recovery.

4. Stimulating the Economy 

Across the globe, governments have experienced a variety of economic challenges as a result of shifting economic conditions arising from increased globalisation, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. In response, new applications of data and AI have been developed to enable data integration across systems to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration, increase transparency, and facilitate the development of new tools and services that drive innovation and competition. 

Case Studies

  • Global Supply Chain Intelligence (U.K.): stakeholders from across the public and private sectors have come together to combine government and external datasets and test the value of developing a map of global supply chains. Participants across government will leverage big data analytics to access real time visibility and insights in order to better understand their supply chains, proactively identify and mitigate risks, and explore new opportunities. 

PUBLIC’s data services

At PUBLIC we work with organisations at the very early stages of their data solution  journey, to co-design options for transforming public policy with data. We then work to build solutions and scale them to maximise impact. For an exploratory call, contact


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Photo by the author

Mahlet Yared

Head of Data Services

Photo by the author

Julie Michlal

Senior Associate

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