Can Big Data Help Streamline Government?


Yesterday, I read a good article about #BigData from Tibco.  The article is entitled “The 4 Biggest Problems with Big Data“.  The four main points are critical for business growth and profitability as well as for addressing key gaps in marketing and outreach capabilities.  These are great concepts for businesses that have profit/loss numbers that determine whether or not the companies survive.  However when we look at the incredible amounts of information, regulations, laws, documents, as well as the diversity of programs that government creates and runs at federal, state and local levels, I often wonder why I have not seen so many more people preaching the message of Big Data as a means to streamline government?

The four key points addressed in the Tibco article as the biggest problems with Big Data are as follows:

    • A comprehensive approach to using big data
    • Getting the right information into the hands of decision makers
    • Effective ways of turning “big data” into “big insights”
    • Big data skills are in short supply
These are all true for government as well.  Additionally, the following items are critical areas where Big Data could be used to effectively streamline government where it is needed:
    • Document and analyze “what does my government really do, and how are my tax dollars used?”
    • Assist in the differentiation between government programs and services that are mission essential and non-mission essential.
    • Identify areas of programmatic, departmental and agency overlap in functions where work efforts are not  coordinated (or even worse, where two groups are trying to do the same thing and it also ends up being a non mission-essential service for both departments)
    • Identify areas where processes and programs can be consolidated / coordinated
    • Identify opportunities for improved interoperability (both areas for improvement as well as ways to start using existing capabilities to their fullest potential)
    • Improve the quality of governmental accountability / open government / transparency of government
    • Provide datasets that big data analysts / data scientists can freely explore in order to identify “big insights” that in turn will save lives, time and money. (ie. Private/Public Partnerships)
    • Enabling decision makers to ask the right questions as well as to receive the right answers and conclusions from those questions.
As the article stated, big data skills are in short supply, and they are even in shorter supply on the governmental side.  There are few people who know how to work well with large volumes of data, but the amount of data created, maintained and consumed will only continue to increase over the coming years.  Whether for public safety, economic development, national security, defense, health, environmental or transportation reasons, the challenge of analyzing this information is one that must be addressed, and that must start sooner rather than later.  As a nation and a world, we are facing incredible challenges; challenges that require us all to look at how to make use of the information that is available.
Our greatest challenge though is doing so in a way where government is streamlined, clarify the roles and responsiblities of government in order to compliment and not supplant the roles of the citizenry and the community at large.  If Big Data can be used to address that challenge, we may have stumbled on something truly incredible!  Only time will tell…
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