Opening a World of Possibilities with Big Data

Federal agencies collect petabytes of structured and unstructured data each day. With storage technologies improving and costs decreasing, it’s easier to retain all this data. That’s good.

Managing the data is another story. Too often it remains unused. That’s bad.

That’s why Big Data presents challenges and opportunities for agencies.

But if agencies can figure out how to use data to further their important missions – if they can figure out how to unlock the value of data – then they open new doors, and that leads to exciting new opportunities.

Analytics technologies are the key to unlocking the value of data.

Without analytics technologies the door remains closed, but these technologies have come a long way, giving Federal agencies really good tools to collect and unlock data. And it’s happened in a short period of time. Big Data and analytics aren’t all the rage – they are standard operating procedure.

But in many cases, agencies need to refine Big Data collection and analysis. Gathering data just for the sake of gathering it is a short-sighted approach. Capturing data is one thing. But the true value is achieved when agencies leverage the data.

There are many examples of the dynamic use of Big Data.

The German soccer team used Big Data to gain a big advantage in the World Cup.

Hansi Flick, the German team’s assistant coach, told Reuters that to get ready for South American teams Germany used a giant data base put together by a team of about 50 students at Cologne’s sports university over the last two years. They analyzed footage to deconstruct each Brazilian player, taking note of running patterns and looking for new patterns.

The FBI is building a huge facial recognition database — which will also include palm prints and iris scans — to supplement its fingerprint database, according to news stories, and the agency reportedly will hold as many as 52 million facial images by the end of next year.

In an attempt to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse, the Treasury Department has launched a program to scan several government databases for information about individuals who have applied for Federal benefits to identify those who are not eligible.

Agencies aren’t the only organizations that can benefit from their data. A report by research firm McKinsey and Company found that unlocking government data has potential for third parties, too.

According to McKinsey, “open data—machine-readable information, particularly government data, that’s made available to others—has generated a great deal of excitement around the world for its potential to empower citizens, change how government works, and improve the delivery of public services. It may also generate significant economic value [and] generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data, which is already giving rise to hundreds of entrepreneurial businesses and helping established companies to segment markets, define new products and services, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.”

Few Big Data initiatives are as mature as either the FBI or Treasury programs. Many agencies still are trying to figure out what all the data means and how to leverage the power of Big Data – to reduce fraud, to improve cyber security, or even understand what taxpayers want and need.

But in many cases we’re able to help them with their strategy, either directly or through our best-of-breed analytics partners, by giving them the key to unlock the value of data and open a world of possibilities.

Raj Rana, Senior Manager, Partner Ecosystem, NetApp Public Sector