Former US Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patel, spoke on what makes technology radical and revolutionary. At a recent talk he gave some very compelling examples of public services improving when access to data improved:

There are 11.4 million Americans who cycle through about 3,100 jails and stay an average of 23 days. The technology revolution is not helping these people nationwide, yet.

Patil suggested the police force could have access to a database that is securely shared with local healthcare facilities. Then, when an officer arrests someone, she or he could check the database for the best place for that individual. If the arrested person has been cycling through jail, the database would reveal that and the person could be taken to a rehab facility or mental health institution instead.

Patil said an area in Florida recently implemented a similar system. The result? Two jails were closed.

Similar results have been achieved by examining databases in homeless shelters to identify chronic cases that are not well-served by emergency services.

[ Gladwell, M. (2006). Million dollar Murray: Why problems of homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage. The New Yorker. ]