People, Projections and Payments: A Look at Modern Government Service Delivery

by hugh miller

In this paper, Hugh Miller discusses how improved data collection, linkage and use of models could improve government service delivery across a wide range of social support areas. The potential gains are tremendous for individuals, communities and governments.

Key points

  • Government has had the primary role for providing services such as justice, income support, public housing, healthcare, education and child protection services for decades. These services represent roughly a fifth of annual GDP (over $300b per year) and contribute heavily to the population’s overall wellbeing. But changes such as fiscal pressures, heightened expectations on measurement and improved longitudinal data mean that there is pressure to improve the effectiveness of these services. This means both ensuring the programs are delivering meaningful improvements in people’s lives and improving cost-effectiveness. We see this occurring through better targeting, earlier intervention and the use of innovative funding mechanisms.
  • Case studies show the increasing sophistication of some government services and how this can be used to improve services for users and investing in people early to both improve their pathways and generate longer-term savings for government. Actuaries have had a role in driving data analysis and informing policy.
  • Progress will continue inexorably, but actuaries see clear opportunities to accelerate improvements. These opportunities include improved data linkage, better outcomes data collection, tackling fragmented services and pushing for transparency when evaluating programs. This all needs to happen in a way that respects people’s privacy and builds trust with the community.
  • These improvements, while delivering better outcomes for recipients, will also cut government expenditure. Combined government spending across welfare, housing, healthcare, justice and child protection can easily amount to $500,000 - $1,000,000 per person over a lifetime for vulnerable groups in the community. Moderate gains that lead to improved pathways would result in annual savings to government budgets that would be measured in the billions. Most importantly, a large portion of the savings come from better outcomes for individuals who move back into active employment and have better options for a fulfilled life.


Hugh Miller in conversation with Vanessa Beenders from the HQ Public Policy team. The discussion includes: 

  • how the investment approach differs to cost-benefit analysis as a tool;
  • how Australia compares with NZ in the use of data analytics to improve public service delivery; and
  • barriers that prevent it from happening or from occurring more quickly in Australia.

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The Dialogue is a series of papers written by actuaries and published by the Actuaries Institute. The papers aim to stimulate discussion on important emerging issues. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of either the Institute of Actuaries of Australia (the ‘Institute’), its members, directors, officers, employees, agents, or that of the employers of the author