Chief Data Officers in the Public Sector of the Asia Pacific Region Face Challenges in Harmonizing Innovation and Governance

Explore the dynamic landscape as Chief Data Officers in the Asia Pacific Public Sector navigate the delicate equilibrium between fostering innovation and upholding effective governance. Delve into the research findings and insights that shed light on this evolving role.

According to recent research conducted by Qlik, Chief Data Officers (CDOs) within the public sector in key Asia Pacific markets are presently giving the highest priority to governance, security, and compliance. This shift in focus is attributed to the rapidly changing regulatory landscape, indicating a cautious approach and decreased emphasis on innovative data analytics. This shift is driven by changes in reporting structures, with more than half (55%) of data executives now reporting through security, risk, or compliance channels instead of technology leadership. This contrasts with the situation in 2021 when only 21% followed similar reporting channels.

The research, titled “Driving Data in the APAC Public Sector: Balancing Governance and Innovation,” also highlights changes in job titles. About one-third (33%) of public sector agencies now assign governance-related titles to their senior data executives, which is more than double the number (15%) in 2021. This reflects the growing importance of governance in shaping strategy. The report points out that many public sector organizations are dedicating more resources to governance than to capability development, reflecting a prevailing view that data is a “risk to be managed” rather than an “opportunity to be exploited.”

The study underscores that CDOs are increasingly equipped with governance skills (77%) compared to analytics (63%) or data literacy (57%). When asked about their priorities for the upcoming year, data leaders are focusing more on strategizing, maturity assessments, inventories, and governance boards, rather than initiatives centered around innovation, such as deploying analytics tools, retiring outdated technologies, or releasing open datasets.

The research also highlights the strengthening of compliance practices in recent years. In 2023, over 90% of organizations reported having governance frameworks in place, a substantial increase from 38% in 2021.

Conducted independently by Omdia and commissioned by Qlik, the study surveyed 326 senior data executives in the public sectors of Australia, India, and Singapore. It reveals the evolving roles and strategies of CDOs across government entities. Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President, APAC, Qlik, notes that the research shows a significant shift in the responsibilities of data leaders, with a reduced emphasis on innovation. While CDOs remain crucial, their focus has shifted towards risk management rather than seizing opportunities with data.

The study also suggests that CDOs have gained a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities, with 78% indicating clear comprehension, including the focus on compliance and governance, compared to 55% in 2021. However, the research indicates that this level of understanding might not be widespread throughout organizations. Although more than 90% of surveyed public sector entities reported having a well-defined data strategy with clear roles and objectives, over half (54%) admitted that their strategy is not widely understood, hampering implementation.

Al Blake, Principal Analyst at Omdia, encourages CDOs to advocate for the value of data across their organizations to drive service development. He highlights the progress made in clarifying the CDO role and the value of data and analytics. Yet, he also emphasizes that the challenge lies in integrating the CDO role effectively across the organization, particularly in balancing governance with innovation. The full report can be accessed for download via a provided link.