Big data is the collecting, analysis, and archiving of data volumes that are too big or complicated for traditional data processing and data management technologies to handle. As the volume, pace, diversity, and authenticity of available data rises, citizens are pushing their governments to offer services on par with those offered to customers in the private sector. Budgetary issues, security worries, and a lack of resources make it challenging for governments to efficiently manage the influx of big data while public workers struggle to adapt to a digital culture.
When it comes to public service, what exactly is “big data?”
When it comes to government, “big data” describes the use of cutting-edge IT innovations from the private sector and academic study to analyze and make sense of vast amounts of information gathered from numerous sources, such as sensors, satellites, body cameras, traffic and CCTV cameras, phones, emails, DMs, and social media.
A lot of work is now being done to improve data storage and processing techniques. Governments may use big data to better serve their constituents in a variety of ways, from simply digitizing paper records and storing them in databases to creating more predictive systems that take into account the implications of information gathered.
Government uses of big data: six examples
Governments and the public sector are becoming more dependent on big data applications as they adapt to a changing global ecology.
There is an increasing demand for greater data storage, integration, accessibility, and analytical capacity across all sorts of organizations, from local governments to those with worldwide missions, as the volume and diversity of data we gather and analyze increase dramatically.
1. Open data initiatives
Open data has acquired a lot of traction during the last ten years. Governments are impacted by this development in two key ways:
- Thanks to the work of private businesses and non-governmental groups, there is now more information available for free than ever before.
- In order to encourage more transparency and citizen involvement, the government is making more efforts to make data accessible to the general public.
Data that was formerly hidden away in safe silos is now widely spread online and available for mining. In the meanwhile, public sector initiatives to make data accessible to the general public increase the bar for accountability. People in the public are more inclined to engage with their government in productive ways, contribute new ideas, and voice their opinions when they have access to thorough reporting about it.
People will be more open with you if you are more outgoing. For example, the Health and Human Services (HHS) project to improve drug monitoring on a nationwide level in the United States has received data contributions from several states. Many states significantly reduced the number of drug overdose deaths thanks to the studies and insights generated by these initiatives.
Agencies that are ready to share their results will gain greatly in the era of ever-increasing data generation and consumption. Today’s most intriguing and successful government big data programs frequently incorporate this kind of back-and-forth communication, as well as direct interaction with the people who would most benefit from the outcomes.
2. Protecting the rights of consumers through defense and enforcement
The government is in charge of protecting individuals from a variety of threats in the contemporary world, including preventing consumer fraud, anticipating changes in the political landscape globally, and defending citizens from the physical perils of the modern world. Modern robotics hardware and artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, stopping the spread of false information and fraud, and these are only a few instances of how these protections have changed in response to contemporary dangers.
For instance, the US Department of Defense invests a sizable amount of money each year on cloud and data platforms, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The early identification and prevention of higher-stakes crises like terrorist attacks, as well as cybercrime and other digital dangers to constituents, are the main foci of these projects.
Beyond these big data applications, the struggle for military supremacy on a global scale demands ever-stronger AI in internal defense systems and overseas in technology used for strategic intervention.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has the means to stay abreast of advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics. These agencies are frequently at the forefront of innovation, whether it’s utilizing cutting-edge strategies like advanced anomaly detection, natural language processing (NLP), and profiling to counter bad actors and insider threats or strengthening military applications with increased security and automation.
3. Public safety
Today, due to the widespread use of body and dashboard cameras, video is always being captured by everyone, including police officers, vehicles, and even the city’s infrastructure itself. At the same time, 9-1-1 centers are overrun with a record number of calls as city populations continue to rise.
The issuing of warrants has made data from digital companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, including GPS coordinates, WiFi hotspot usage, and cell tower positions, available upon request to law enforcement and judicial authorities. Thanks to this information, several recent investigations—even those involving cold cases—have been finished.
With the aid of the new data and the big data techniques being employed to analyze it, law enforcement is better able to defend against internal threats and settle interpersonal disputes.
4. Systemic Issues in Urban Transportation and Planning
Additionally, towns and governments may get more accurate data on driving behavior, vehicle safety, and traffic incidents with the use of analytics. Governments can then put more strict safeguards in place for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.
By examining toll data, doing traffic analytics, and installing mobile bus or train trackers, agencies enhance and alter public transit to meet the changing demands of neighborhood commuters while generating more money.
Meanwhile, “smart city” projects are being implemented in an effort to strengthen the central nervous system of entire areas. These demand the integration of multiple currently in use sensors, the gathering of fresh data, and the development of analytics that will eventually result in a more responsive and efficient urban infrastructure. This will enable the city to use its resources more effectively, reduce the cost of maintenance and upgrades, and streamline its administrative procedures.
5. Public health
In order to enhance the public health information that government agencies have access to, a number of new initiatives have been put into place. These initiatives range from the control of harmful disinformation to the adoption of solutions to the ongoing issue of drug usage.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocated $10 million from its fiscal year 2019 budget to use on analytics solutions such as predictive modeling, pattern identification, and data visualization in order to tackle the opioid crisis. These kinds of expenditures can help governments understand epidemics better, spot high-risk locations or instances, and start addressing population health problems before they get out of hand.
Both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) place a high focus on big data research and engineering (NIH). Many scientific institutions employ large data sets to extract physical insights from disciplines including chemistry, biology, epidemiology, and human behavior. By acquiring this knowledge, medical personnel and researchers are better equipped to develop novel patient care strategies, efficient disease therapies, and neighborhood-wide health improvement programs.
6. Environment, energy, and utilities
Agencies have access to data collected by sensors tracking environmental conditions, the quality of the air, water, and ground, as well as customer payment and consumption patterns in fields ranging from energy use to waste collection.
One environmental organization that appreciates the importance of big data in enhancing how people interact with the natural world and distribute limited resources is California’s Natural Resources Agency (CNRA). To share and examine data on a variety of resources, the CNRA has developed a data lake that is accessible to other organizations and the general public.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched a number of efforts to further our understanding of climate change and the dispersal and extinction of important animal species. These sorts of applications employ big data to forecast and prepare for natural calamities like earthquakes, ecological changes, and others.
Governing in an era of big data
Many government agencies are moving toward a data-driven strategy, but others are finding it difficult to change and some are still unaware of the importance of big data. Thanks to widely accessible data and technology, there are more opportunities than ever before, but there are also numerous challenges to be solved.
Staffing shortages in IT, antiquated infrastructure
The government has a greater obligation to its citizens than any other institution since it has been around longer. People who hold to tradition and tried-and-true practices may be averse to change and new ideas.
Compared to their private-sector competitors, government and public-sector enterprises frequently have rudimentary IT divisions. In the last few decades, the majority of government organizations merely made necessary hardware or software upgrades.
Many firms still maintain records and data in archaic forms and on paper. There will still be interactions with paper records for those who have switched to digital data management solutions like databases and data warehouses (for example, voting systems with paper ballots).
The processing of so many various types of data causes a slowdown in government IT modernization and adds new difficulties to its implementation.
Concerns with data quality and integration
Beyond the apparent, the necessity for transformation and the movement of several public and government systems to the cloud poses issues with integration and data quality assurance. Teams should work together to create a trustworthy data pipeline in a logical, organized, and knowledgeable way.
Many businesses need to transition hundreds of programs to the cloud, yet much of the software that is now in use was built independently, leading to a complex web of dependencies and rare compatibility problems. This indicates that the integration difficulty still exists in many departments even for firms committed to implementing and updating big data technology.
Due to the public sector’s stricter budgetary limitations than the private sector, officials and leaders sometimes find it difficult to argue for spending money on information technology or data infrastructure.
Many very efficient platforms, services, goods, and applications may be found in the cloud, but their features and (often prohibitive) prices are continuously changing. Agencies run the danger of giving up on their data migration initiatives when faced with such financial mismatches.
Weaknesses in system security
The likelihood that state and local governments will learn about and disclose data breaches rises in direct proportion to the amount, diversity, and public interest of data. It’s important to control the growing danger of severe and widespread data breaches and leaks.
Many users of government databases acknowledge unauthorized access to data. While this is happening, government cybersecurity teams, which are sometimes nonexistent or badly underfunded, are significantly less skilled at hacking into networks than hackers.
However, there is reason for hope as new data and governance regulations gain support and are implemented. For instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a law in the European Union, was created to protect people and their personal information while also making it easier for businesses to implement and follow these protections and regulations.
Politics and culture
When attempting to implement big data methods, the government encounters both technological challenges and cultural pushback. Few individuals who have the power to direct modernization initiatives or to put rules in place that might make or break them have a strong understanding of the potential and dangers presented by big data.
Government leaders frequently have misconceptions about the capabilities of their IT teams. They might not be aware of underused resources as a result of a lack of data literacy.
Using the outdated forms of governance makes it far more difficult for government organizations to successfully interact and exchange knowledge. Data integration is still tough since the government is still largely compartmentalized.
An further problem has evolved, and that is the fact that companies who effectively use big data compete with organizations that are unable or unwilling to adapt in order to keep up (For instance, ridesharing services pose new challenges for urban transportation policymakers).
Public administration, data analytics, and cloud computing
The usage of cloud infrastructure by the public sector is increasing by around 30% annually. Without a question, companies in the public sector are using industry best practices for dispersed data processing and storage.
As they shift data to the cloud and begin building crucial business intelligence and analytics on top of it, these organizations will need a variety of cutting-edge solutions. For government applications, it is frequently important to construct data lakes and cloud data warehouses as well as to model the data carefully. A hybrid cloud solution is also necessary to connect conventional on-premises databases to SaaS and PaaS applications running in the cloud.
Local, state, and city governments can benefit greatly from using cloud-based or hybrid solutions.
- Reduced utilization of internal IT and on-premise hardware leads to operational cost savings.
- Because distributed systems are more scalable, they can better adapt to the changing needs of their users.
- As response times decrease, agencies will be able to resolve problems and carry out requests in a manner that seems like real time.
- Sensitive data is protected by the improved redundancy and resilience of cloud services and storage.
- The application of best practices for data management will satisfy all needs for data quality, accessibility, and governance.
Anywhere can get information, and it is always growing.
In other words, when the population rises, the amount of data also does, and the number of information sources also grows. Governments must become data-driven in order to properly manage these significant changes and satisfy citizens who have grown up with the global data revolution.
Governments can no longer rely on combing through paperwork, getting over barriers to send and receive vital information, or hoping that their data will be safe and reliable without putting in place and employing proven and contemporary methods. Because of the flood of data coming from millions of linked devices, agency systems, cameras, and other sources, the public sector has to embrace a data-driven approach.
Talend Data Fabric offers a comprehensive set of solutions for data integration and data integrity, enabling more efficient data collection, administration, transformation, and sharing for organizations looking to become more data-driven.