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Big Data for Governments

July 14, 2014

In an earlier blog post, we have discussed Importance of Big Data for an enterprise, but using big data is not just for enterprises trying to drive their business.

For government agencies, the challenges and opportunities of Big Data analytics are real and of developing significance to meet their responsibilities. The data sets are large and complex, with multiple varieties and sources, including structured and unstructured. As a result, agencies are becoming increasingly data rich, but ironically, information poor. Big Data presents a huge opportunity for the government to gain big insights through data analytics. The real challenge with Big Data analysis is more than simply a matter of size or variety. Rather, it is finding what is relevant in this massive amount of data.

The ever-growing volume of data generated and captured by the modern digitized world is aprospect for the government to reinvent itself. Everyday, enterprises across the globe discover new ways to gain customer insights that allow them to target products and services with unparalleled specificity. This same expertise can essentiallyalter the way government functions, breaking down hierarchies and silos, empowering preventive action, integrating citizens into every aspect of governance and increasing overall efficiency. Data analytics offers us exceptional opportunities to advance the effectiveness of government.

The greatest public value and insights come when the government, through its open data and transparency initiatives, produces usable information that permits meaningful public involvement in the delivery of public services. The propagation of open data sets on sites such as Open Goverment Data Platform encourages the private sector and non-profit agencies to use the once-locked information, for public good. It also inspires key debates on data standardization and usage as well as privacy concerns of the common people.

Yet these massive amounts of data will drive efficiency only when structured and analyzed in a manner that supports decision-making. Governments are just beginning to meaningfully integrate data analytics into their operations, but the results so far have been highly encouraging: Predictive algorithms allow police departments to anticipate future crime hotspots and proactively deploy officers or buildings departments to determine which structures are most likely to have code violations in order to efficiently allocate limited inspector time. Analyzing accumulated data from subway smartcards can predict the effects of transit disruptions and give broad insight into transit-system operations. Organizations and their employees can use digital tools, both to collaborate and to gain new insight from their combined data resources.

With the current day pressure on public sector organisations to ‘do more with less’, the opportunities are immense for the use of public data to provide better and faster services to the public. Crime prevention, transportation, defense and national security, revenue management, environmental stewardship and social services, government agencieswill have to wrestle every day with managing and using the data being generated in the respective sectors. But more importantly, before anything else, it is imperative to ensure that public service leaders are confident in combining big data with sound judgement.Robust practice guidelines, policies and effective measures maintaining data integrity and the transparency of the processneed to be formulated by the regulatory bodies to bring in effect a data-driven decision making culture in the functioning of the public services bodies.

In our next post, we will discuss the importance of data security particularly in the public domain.


About the Author

Chaitanya is a graduate from BITS Pilani and is co founder of Delta4c ( ), an analytics based startup. He worked previously at MuSigma for 2 years and has hands on expertise in various algorithmic and analytic techniques. He is currently a graduate student in business analytics at Carl H Linder school of Business.


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