What are the risks of using big data, policy making and organisational performance measurement? – An international perspective




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Peer reviewed



The role of big data carries with it great opportunities to improve the public services and administration. The ability to manage large volumes of data, process and draw conclusions and develop policies via Artificial Intelligence has the ability to shape policy that has not been available before and will transform the shape of the Public Sector. This great potential to shape policy also brings with it enormous risks, especially in the government sector. This paper will explore some of those risks and look at international examples to raise questions as to how these risks can be managed (and if not what should be done). The paper therefore looks at the risks throughout the parts of the PFM (Public Financial Management) system that bring together measuring organizational efficiency. Under NPM linking reward and control systems to performance have led to unintended consequences and in some instances dysfunctional decision making. It is important that big data takes into account the limits of human capacity to limit or identify these behaviours, or put into place strict controls to avoid data manipulation, and if possible use big data sources to identify data manipulation. The main areas of risk are in the identification of performance measures (outputs) measurement of inputs (Accounting systems especially IPSAS/IFRS) scope for manipulation (tightness of controls) and at the same allowing managerial discretion to introduce new and innovative approaches so that the limitations of bureaucratic inefficiencies do not simply return under the guise of big data. All these factors risk democratic accountability and scrutiny and remembering always that policy is part of democratic choices. Big data has to assist those choices not replace them. Public Choice theory has been the basis of the international drive in moving towards new public management (NPM). Whilst this paper highlights the limitations/risks of using big data in measuring efficiency performance so that the speed of development is consistent with progress in designing accounting and output information.



Big Data,, Public Financial Management,, public policy


Mear, F. (2019) Evidence-Based Policymaking: Using Big Data to Evaluate Public Sector Innovation and Improve Organizational Performance.13th Annual Public Administration Research Conference, UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, Orlando, Florida, USA, March 2019.


Research Institute

Centre for Research in Accountability, Governance and Sustainability (CRAGS)