Use Big Data Thinking and Methods to Enhance the Government’s Governing Capacity

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Seeking Truth 2016/12

Chen Gang

Key points:

– In the present era, data has become a national basic strategic resource, bug data is gaining an ever more important influence on the operational mechanisms of the global economy, society’s way of life and national governing capability. The Party Centre and the State Council are giving the development of big data and innovation of application in high regard, and the 5th Plenum of the 19th Party Congress clearly put forward the implementation of the national big data strategy.

– The scientific and technological revolution is moving forward rapidly, which is especially due to the advent of big data era, which urgently requires governmental governing to transform from closed management to open governance, from unidirectional management to coordinated governance, from passive influence to active service, from qualitative management to quantitative management, from extensive management to detailed management, from operational management to conventional management, and so to realize a transformation of social governance thinking, improvement in social governance methods, progress of governmental policymaking technology, the upgrading of risk control capacity, the recreation of public management workflows, and the enhancement of social coordination in governance.

– We are entering the Internet era and the big data era, public goods and public services must progressively transform from being “supply-oriented” to being “demand oriented”, from focusing on “service coverage” to focusing on “service experience”, and from focusing on “passive provision” to “active provision”.

– The first step to enhance the government’s governing capacity with big data is to transform the traditional concentration of work in offices, and the paper transmission of public documents between different departments into paperless, networked and virtualized new methods, ensure the informatization of public affairs workflows, and use the Internet to realize the online operation of governmental affairs.

– What we must guard against is that, if there is no openness and sharing of cross-regional, high-quantity, specialized data, using big data to upgrade the government’s governing capability is an empty phrase; but if we completely fail to differentiate which data should be opened op or not, it may bring great privacy and secrecy leaks, and the disaster of great economic fluctuations.


In the present era, data has become a fundamental national strategic resource, and big data is becoming ever more of an important influence on global economic operating mechanisms, ways of social life and state governance capability. The Party Centre and the State Council have given high regard to big data development, innovation and application, the fifth Plenum of the 19th Party Congress clearly put forward the implementation of a national big data strategy. The State Council’s “Action Plan to Stimulate the Development of Big Data” puts forward that big data has become “a new channel to enhance governments’ governing capacity”. This requires governments of all levels to establish big data thinking, use big data methods to promote the progress of governmental management concepts and social governance models, and realize the modernisation of the state’s governance system and governance capability.

I, Big data is a completely new juncture for government’s enhancement of governance capability.

Big data not only change ways of production and ways of life, ways of organizing society and especially governmental governance will also see profound changes because of it. A trend where by big data is forcing government to enhance its governance capability us currently forming, the governmental use of big data has already become a major trend in big data innovation and application. We can absolutely not avoid this.

Enhancing governmental governance capacity faces grave challenges. At present, our country is in a crucial period of development, a period of reform and assault, a period of prominent contradictions, and governmental governance faces a great number of new challenges and new circumstances. From the angle of the present development conditions, industrialization, urbanization and informatization are moving forward rapidly, the problems that urban-rural development is not balanced and regional development is not coordinated are prominent, large numbers of “work unit people” are transforming into “social people”, large numbers of permanent residents are changing into a floating population, social structures and interest structures are seeing profound change, the scale and kinds of public affairs that government needs to deal with and respond to are growing greatly in quantity, the degree of complexity is unprecedented, traditional governance models face grave challenges. From the angle of the needs of the masses, following the progressive improvement in material life conditions, and especially the broad use of the Internet and big data, the demands of the popular masses on governmental services and social protection have come to have new characteristics of individualization and diversification, more demands are placed on the sense of experience, the sense of participation and the level of detail in services, the existing “old ways” that stressed standardized service are also facing the “new problems” of diversified and individualized demands.

Using big data to enhance governmental governance capacity is an overall trend. The acceleration of the scientific and technological revolution and especially the advent of the big data era urgently require that governmental governance accelerates the transformation from closed management to open governance, from unidirectional management to coordinated governance, from passive response to active service, from qualitative management to quantitative management, from rough management to accurate management, from operational management to conventional management, and so to realize a transformation in social governance thinking, an improvement in social governance method, progress in governmental policymaking science, an enhancement of risk control capability, a reconstruction of public management processes, and a new step forward in social coordination and governance. Big data will become the most important and most powerful driver to accelerate the modernization of governmental governance capacity. Through big data thinking, scientific policymaking, detailed management and detailed services based on big data will become the normal situation, and will greatly promote the progress of governmental management ideas and social governance models, they will move forward the construction of a rule of law government, an innovative government, a clean government, a smart government and a service-oriented government, and progressively realize the modernization of governance capacity.

There are successful cases of using big data to enhance government’s governing ability. Facts demonstrate that government departments can, through using big data, substantially increase their productivity and work efficiency, and effectively reduce management cost. in recent years, a number of localities and departments vigorously promoted the governmental use of big data for development, and gained early successes. For instance, Guizhou grasped the opportunity of big data development, and at the same time as forcefully developing big data and its connected industries, strove to build mutual governmental data sharing platforms, which promoted the integration and sharing of governmental data, it incessantly excavated the value of big data in enhancing government’s governance capacity and protecting and improving the people’s livelihoods, especially in terms of creatively putting forward data tracking and comprehensive analysis of the overall process of exercise of power, it gained initial results in practice, and enhanced government’s administrative capacity and transparency of the exercise of power.

II, Some considerations on using big data to enhance governmental governance capacity

The prospects for the application of big data in governmental governance are broad, and its usage value is huge, it is crucial to build a set of completely new mechanisms to “use data to speak, use data to make policy, use data to manage, and use data to innovate”.

The use of big data boosts a seamless constraint of power. In supervising and managing power, the key lies in weaving a “cage” to constrain power. Realize seamless constrains on power means realizing a normalization and standardization of supervision over power, and realizing that there are no forbidden zones, coverage is complete and there is zero-tolerance, forcing government to consciously standardize and constrain the use of power. Government should, with the help of big data methods, create records of the data created in the complete process of exercising power, and comprehensively analyse the, in order to timely discover and control possibly existing risks, unearth and analyse the probability that improprieties, chaotic acts and corrupt conduct occur, and clues for them, and through practice, incessantly ensure that this exploration becomes ever more rational, standardized and scientific, thereby creating a seamless “iron data cage”, perfecting power supervision and technological anti-corruption systems, and enhancing the efficiency of government as well as governance capacity.

The use of big data boosts the scientization of government policymaking. At present, because of the fact that considerations in government policymaking and policy implementation are numerous and complex, it is ubiquitous that all kinds of contradictions are intertwined and all kinds of changes mix together. Policymaking that lacks data support, and especially policymaking based on experience often “focuses on one thing while losing sight of the other”, and is insufficiently scientific and farsighted. Government should, with the help of big data methods, use correlative data analysis, mathematical model-building, virtual simulations and even artificial intelligence technologies, to conduct modular analysis and policy simulations on the basis of broad and high-quantity data, in order to provide policymaking with a more systematic, accurate and scientific basis for reference, provide policy implementation with more complete and reliable real-time tracking, promote an analytical transformation in government policymaking from experiential and estimate-based policymaking to data analytics-based policymaking, and in the end realize a reconstruction of governmental policymaking mechanisms.

The use of big data boosts the accuracy of government affairs management. In the face of ever more complex changes in social affairs, traditional management thinking has often remained stuck in areas including expanding organizations, increasing staff and increasing budgets, informatized methods are used insufficiently, and we stop at coarse management. Government should conduct governmental management with the help of big data methods, ensure the intersection and convergence od all kinds of data, concerning market supervision and management, inspection and quarantine, law-breaking and violations of trust, consumer protection, judicial trials, etc. through data “tracking” and correlative analysis, meticulously grasp the true situation of enterprises and individuals, accurately grasp and timely discover problems, and so further enhance the accuracy and focus of government supervision and management. At the same time, through deep data excavation and analysis, forecasts and early warnings can be generated concerning the activities and tendencies of market subjects as well as the risk of violations of regulations and the law, stimulating governments to, on the basis of cross-departmental data sharing and joint operations, respond in real time, deal with public incidents and the public’s appeals, carry out precision attacks against all kinds of law-breaking activities, ensuring that we move from intervention and response to advance forecasting and dealing with matters before they occur.

The use of big data boosts the diversity of public services. In the past, government public services often pursued uniformity, broad coverage, and “one size fits all”, this easily overlooked the diversity of the masses and their divergent pursuits. Entering the Internet era and the big data era, public products and public service must progressively transform from being “supply-oriented” to being “demand-oriented”, from stressing “service coverage” to stressing “service experience”, and from “passive provision” to “active provision”. Governments should, with the help of big data means, and at the same time as reducing public service costs, open up broad spaces for diversified services, thereby forcing innovation in government service models, ensuring that healthcare, care for the elderly, poverty relief, social assistance and other such public services become much more detailed and individualized, ensuring that smart healthcare, smart education, smart care for the elderly, etc., become reality.

The use of big data boosts the plurality of governance models. Following the collection and convergence of vast quantities of data as well as the broad application of big data thinking and means, government is required to accelerate the shift of governance models from unitary to plural, and to realistically enhance public governance capacity, good governance capacity and comprehensive governance capacity. For instance, it is necessary to steadily move forward with opening up public data resources, data openness will not only guarantee the public’s right to know, it will also promote a locality’s economic and social development, and create the basic support for innovation and entrepreneurialism. We should accelerate the promotion of a transformation from government being “one large independent clan” to “government prepares the stage, society sings the harmony”, ensuring that the idea of joint construction and joint governance enters into people’s hearts ever more deeply, and that a coordinated governance structure and setup of government and society, that is networked, operates in real time and across multiple dimensions, is created. What must be strengthened is that, at the same time that data provision for government governance is convenient, it may also bring challenges to personal privacy, corporate secrets, government credibility and even national security. Government must strengthen its initiative and its driving role, and must forcefully promote data openness and sharing, and at the same time do the utmost to guarantee data security.

III, The main technological roadmap for using big data to enhance government governance capacity

The use of big data to enhance government governance capacity is a new animal, we must dare to think and dare to try, use new ways of thinking and new technologies to open up new roadmaps and new dimensions, and open up a new journey for the governmental use of big data for development.

Laying down an infrastructure basis. The first step for using big data to enhance government governance capacity is that it is necessary to transform the traditional way of doing concentrated businesses in offices, where paper documents are transmitted between different departments, into a new paperless, networked and virtualized way, realizing informatization of government affairs workflows, and using the Internet to realize the online handling of government affairs. What must be pointed out is that informatization against the background of big data is different from government projects in the past, it is certainly not a simple transfer of government and administrative processes from material space to cyberspace, but it is providing a basis and a platform to reconstruct government affairs workflows through data. Because of this, from the start, it is necessary to give high regard to issues such as the source, security and collection of data, to make technological and institutional arrangements in advance, and lay a good basis for the next phase of work. This can be called “informatization.

Strengthening data linkages. The value of big data lies in the size of data, and lies in the extent to which it is interconnected. The second step for enhancing government governance capacity with big data is raising the structuralization levels of data and recording the process of the use of power through the footprints of data, in order to find connections between data. In contrast to informatization, this step stresses the realization of data tracking, data collection, data correlation, data analysis and data intelligence, in order to systematically enhance government efficiency and credibility. This requires that we must see data as a starting point and a stopover point in dealing with problems, start from a top-level design, unify data standards, provide data access point, and with the help of new technological means, incessantly enhance the structuralization levels of data and the extent of data assembly, thereby conducting ever quicker, ever better and ever stronger converged data analysis, for the purpose of improving services and optimizing workflows. This step can be called “datafication”.

Moving forward with automatic workflows. The standard for the strength or weakness of governance capacity lies in whether or not it can be rapid and efficient. The third step for using big data to enhance government’s governance capacity is to realize automatized workflow management for computers concerning data. This includes five segments: first, the datafication of identity, which means that people and organizations are datafied, to ensure that their identity can be recognized and confirmed, and groups connected to problems can be found out; second, the datafication of activities, which means datafying all kinds of activities of people and organizations, tracking the activities connected to the identities a number of defined trackees, and so to grasp laws and the causes for activities; third, the correlation of data, which means conducting correlative analysis of data concerning the identities and activities of individuals and organizations, to unearth the correlative relationships between people and objects, as well as between objects themselves; fourth, the datafication of thoughts, which means researching the datafied expression and recording of the thoughts behind the activity data of people and organizations, and so to analyse motives, objectives and profound physiological responses; fifth, the datafication of forecasting, which means activating data on the basis of collecting all kinds of data, in order to forecast future developments and find out points of risks or weak segments. Throughout the above segments, human intervention is not necessary, and an automatization and smartification of government service workflows will be realized. This can be called “workflow automation”.

Realizing cross-border convergence. The quintessence of Internet thinking lies in crossing borders and convergence. The fourth step in using big data to enhance government’s governance capacity is using many kinds of methods, including administrative coercion, adjustment of interests, etc., to smash “isolated data islands”, realize that data is opened according to need, according to contract, in an orderly and secure manner, and creating cross-departmental data sharing mechanisms that are continuously both open and closed. What requires attention is the fact that if there is no cross-area, large quantity and specialized open data sharing, using big data to enhance government governance capacity is an empty phrase; but if all data is made completely open without any distinction, it may bring about leaks of private information and secrets, and disastrous major economic tides. Because of this, data openness and sharing must have boundaries, rules, and measures. It may be explored to stipulate the scale of openness and sharing, level, form of display, use time limits and other matters in advance through contractual means, and conduct supervision and management of the usage of a counterpart’s open information through corresponding laws and contracts, thereby realizing a balance between the need for data openness, and the need for privacy and security protection. This can be called “convergence”.

According to these “four work methods” of informatization, datafication, workflow automatization and convergence, in recent years, Guiyang City has kept a close watch on the three questions, “where is the problem, where is the data, and where are the methods”, with the help of big data methods, it has built the beginnings of mechanisms to effectively supervise the use of power and enhance governments’ governance efficiency. The task of enhancing governmental governance capacity with big data is grave and the road is long. We must broadly concentrate forces from all sides, further clarify the development orientation and smoothen the development path, and jointly build a beautiful tomorrow of enhancing government’s governance capacity through big data.

(The author is a Standing Committee member of the CCP Guizhou Provincial Committee and the Party Secretary of Guiyang City)



《求是》2016/12  作者:陈 刚



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