Singapore Picks a Winner in Analytics
Posted on Harvard Business Review: July 26, 2011 9:41 AM
A couple of years ago I visited Singapore and wrote a blog post on this site arguing that it is a well-managed country with a high degree of organizational judgment. That post elicited perhaps more comments than any other I’ve written—most of them from Singaporeans who debated whether my positive comments were warranted. It’s good to be self-critical, I guess.
I’m in Singapore again now, this time to help launch the Deloitte Analytics Institute (DAI). The Asian headquarters of this new organization has been established in partnership with the Economic Development Board of the Singapore government. The DAI’s goal is to do research and thought leadership on the application of analytics to business and government. The Singapore government has provided some money to help meet these goals. I spoke today at the first of a series of public seminars on analytics; there are a number of other tangible outputs that the DAI has agreed to produce.
This is, by the way, a good decision on the SG government’s part. Analytics make sense as a growth area for Singapore for several reasons:
• Some of the previous growth domains for the country, such as information technology manufacturing, have become somewhat commoditized;
• Singapore has scored highly (first or third) in every TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) ranking of mathematics achievement since 1995;
• Many Singaporeans speak excellent English—the language most often used to discuss analytics in business;
• Singapore has a strong industry foundation in financial services, one of the most analytical industries;
• Singapore’s citizens are early and aggressive adopters of consumer technologies, which generate a lot of data for analysis.
In addition to the support for the Deloitte institute, Singapore’s government has also provided substantial support for the Living Analytics Research Centre. The Centre, a research partnership between Carnegie Mellon and Singapore Management University, “seeks to make Singapore one of the world’s premier locations for the development and applied use of real-time consumer and social analytics, as well as one of the world’s leading centres for computational social science related R&D and education.”
In short, Singapore has decided that analytics are of sufficient promise as a driver of the nation’s future economic growth that it’s subsidizing a private sector research program on the topic. Can you imagine such forward-looking investments in the U.S.? We can’t even decide whether to pay back our creditors. Instead of funding social analytics, social and behavioral science funding at the U.S. National Science Foundation was almost discontinued altogether.
I love the United States, and Singapore is a little hot and humid for my tastes anyway. But I wish I lived in a country where we could decide what ideas, trends, and technologies were going to be important to our future, and then make investments in them that would help to achieve that future. Analytics are a strong capability of many US firms and organizations, but the government hasn’t had much to do with it.
There is one bright exception to this rule, and that’s in the area of health care. The ARRA stimulus program included more than $19 billion to reimburse physicians and hospitals for the use of electronic medical record systems. Reimbursement depends not only on installing the systems, but on using the data from them to make better treatment decisions—in short, healthcare analytics. The availability of all that new data, and the reimbursement standards requiring effective analytics, have given healthcare analytics a huge shot in the arm. Let’s hope that in the future there are similarly wise investments by the U.S. government into other analytical domains. We need analytics for better decision-making in health care, but we also need them in a wide variety of other businesses and industries.
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