The (US) Federal Government is capitalizing on BIG data technology
It could be argued that large governments are the perfect candidates for BIG data technology. First off, they routinely process a great deal of information already, and this extends into many different areas as well. Yes, if ever there was a group that could really use BIG data tools to create order it would have to be the US federal government. Well, there’s no need to wait for it, because this is exactly what’s been going on recently; the federal govt. has been pushing for increased use of BIG data management with aims of also instituting similar practices at the stage and local levels.
To make a long story short, the government is plugging into a concept that many in the upper end of the technological community have been kicking around for quite a while; it’s the notion that data itself is fast becoming viewed and used as another potential source of revenue. Specifically, that data itself has some intrinsic value which not only makes it worth collecting on its own merit, but that it can also provide valuable insights when taken as a large collective whole. In other words, if you look closely at any large collection of data, you’ll begin to notice that certain sectors of said data (once organized) tend to relate to others in distinctively different ways.
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In the same way that some algorithms are closely held as valuable property, to be used in the US stock exchange (high frequency trading) and for facilitating internet searches (Google’s algorithm), BIG data can allow individuals and organizations to extract their own. It is the relationships existing in networks of seemingly unrelated data pools which seem to be the most valuable. Sure, any large amount of collected data will have a number of potential uses, but it is the larger inferences which are uncovered that are really precious. That’s essentially how many algorithms or formulas are discovered, they are reflections of some larger types of relationships which exist on multiple levels and stem from one source of connected materials.
Anyway, getting back on point; the Federal government in the US has clearly seen the light as far as BIG data is concerned. As part of the Obama administration’s attempt at improving efficiency of operations and utilization of technology; industry experts, government leaders, and academics have come together to address the challenges of BIG data and how it might best be used in government. Also, this comes at a time when virtually all sectors of every governmental body in the world are facing slowing growth and economic unrest. Basically, BIG data is yet another way of creating additional value through a steady medium, which is very much welcome at this point.
In 2011, around $200 million was put forth toward the development of BIG data research projects. The goal was (and still is) to look for solutions in some of the more pressing areas like health care, criminal fraud, emergency preparedness and of course, police operations. Each of these areas of government routinely deal with very large databases of information and generally aren’t used in any particularly strategic manner; hopefully with the introduction of BIG data analysis however, this will change.
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How might such large pools of data be used to address issues? In health care for example, gathered statistics can help to determine future averages in terms of those afflicted with certain types of ailments. In turn, this data can be used to determine the future costs in individual areas of the health care establishment, which would allow for much more accurate budgeting and prevent such things as unexpected shortfalls. Likewise, in cases where certain governmental agencies are searching for malicious hackers and cyber criminals, continual scrutiny of large amounts of data might allow for both deterrence as well as forensic analysis. Imagine being able to process a very large amount of data and almost instantly being able to see where cyber criminals have been and what they’ve been up to over time.
Perhaps even more important (in light of the staggering number of natural disasters we’ve seen emerge in the last several years) is the government’s use of BIG data management for all emergency preparedness programs. For an organization like FEMA, it’s not a question of “is something going to happen?” as much as “when will it happen?” By having a coterie of BIG data tools on hand to assist with all emergency operations, more lives can hopefully be saved, more property protected, and rebuilding operations instituted in a timelier manner.
Currently, the Federal government is focusing on BIG data training, education and certification. The big hope is that in the coming years there will be a large enough influx of individuals steeped in IT practices and BIG data management to meet the growing demand of the government.