Public Sector Chief Data Officers in key Asia Pacific markets are currently prioritising governance, security, and compliance amid the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape, highlighting a sense of caution and reduced focus on innovation in data analytics, according to new research from Qlik.
A shift in traditional reporting structures is driving this trend, with over half (58%) of data executives now reporting through a security, risk, or compliance channel rather than a technology organisational lead, according to the research titled “Driving Data in the APAC Public Sector: Balancing Governance and Innovation.” Meanwhile, nearly half of public sector agencies (48%) now use a governance title for their senior data executives.
The report also reveals how governance has become fundamental to shaping strategy. Many public sector organisations are now allocating more resources to governance than capability, mirroring a default view across the sector that data is a ‘risk to be managed’ rather than an ‘opportunity to be exploited.’ In this environment, 71% of CDOs agree that they possess data governance capabilities, while 65% affirm their possession of data management capabilities, and 58% indicate having data analytics capabilities to utilise data to formulate and implement policies or provide services.
When asked about their priorities for the next year, many data leaders ranked strategising, maturity assessments, inventories and governance boards above more innovation-focused initiatives, such as deploying analytics tools, decommissioning old technologies or publishing open datasets. In Indian organisations, the top three data goals for the next year are defining a data strategy (65%), installing a governance board (55%), and creating an enterprise data architecture (55%).
The research also demonstrates the drive to strengthen compliance practices in recent years. Over 90% of organisations reported having governance frameworks in place in 2023.
Of the 90% mentioned above, 63% of Indian organisations have confirmed they have some policies and procedures in place but are still maturing their framework; 35% regard their frameworks as mature, and 2% have not adopted any data governance practices.
Regarding significant challenges in moving data to the public cloud, 65% of respondents said the effort required to modernise applications was the topmost barrier, followed by privacy/security concerns (64%) and a shortage of technical skills and support (56%).
Commissioned by Qlik and conducted independently by Omdia, the study presents the findings of a survey of 326 senior data executives within the public sectors of Australia, India, and Singapore, revealing how the CDO role and business strategies are evolving across government organisations.
Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President, APAC, Qlik, said the report signals a rapid change in data leaders’ roles and responsibilities, and how innovation is now taking a backseat.
“Our study provides valuable insight into the responsibilities and demands faced by CDOs in the public sector today. While CDOs have never been more important, they play a critical role in the overall infrastructure of the public sector, the research clearly demonstrates how their job is rapidly evolving,” says Thomas.
“Critically, they are increasingly focused on addressing risk rather than seizing on opportunities when it comes to data. To overcome this cautiousness, CDOs need to realise and maximise the return on data and analytics.” Promisingly, the findings also show rising appreciation for the expanding roles and responsibilities of CDOs in today’s increasingly regulated climate. Around 61% now say they clearly understand the role and how to deliver against it.
But this level of appreciation does not necessarily extend to entire organisations, according to the research. Over 90% of businesses have a well-defined data strategy with responsibilities and objectives. However, the majority of respondents (54%) say they are poorly understood. There is a significant disparity between countries, with 49% of Singaporean enterprises reporting that their goals and objectives are well recognised, 41% in Australia, and 20% in India. Multi-cloud deployments are becoming the standard across the continent, with India leading the way with only 2% of firms claiming to utilise only one cloud platform.
Al Blake, Principal Analyst, Omdia, said CDOs should be promoting the value of data across their businesses to drive service development. “Indian organisations are embracing robust data governance and delineating precise roles and goals for their data. It’s encouraging to witness CDOs operating in an era of clarity where the significance of data and analytics is recognised. However, the challenge lies in amplifying this value across the organisation to drive service development and strategic implementation. Integrating the CDO role remains a work in progress, especially in harmonising governance and innovation,” says Blake.
Varun Babbar, Managing Director – India & SAARC, Qlik, said, “While data sharing and open publishing benefits are widely recognised in the public sector, enabling seamless connectivity and data integration across agencies can foster service development. Integrating data management policies and procedures directly into analytical systems is equally important, especially since India established its 1st Data Protection Act. This approach promotes dissemination and encourages a ‘learning by doing’ mentality, ensuring data sharing and utilisation become integral to operational efficiency.”