Follow Datanami:
April 19, 2012

Big Data Lessons for Big Government

Julie Ginches

Got sleep? Many big businesses aren’t getting much these days; seems big data struggles are keeping them awake. But they won’t be lonely for long–big government could soon suffer the same plight.  As it embarks on its big data effort, big government should examine how large enterprises are already grappling with the issue today.

There’s good news on the horizon, however. The federal government sees big data as the next frontier in driving research and development, strengthening national security, and transforming education. In fact, they just announced the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative.” 

As part of this initiative, the government has committed more than $200 million to “greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data.” Given that the amount of data being generated today is expected to double in two years, investment in this effort is good news for business and government alike.

The Reality

Big data is hardly a new initiative for big business. Large enterprises have been trying to get a handle on it for a while now. But recent research reveals that most enterprise organizations are still struggling with it – perhaps more than they realized.

Earlier this year, DataXu set out to obtain a baseline gauge of how enterprise organizations are dealing with big data.  Developed and fielded by Human 1.0 and the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), the research effort surveyed more than 350 “enterprise decision-makers” in management, marketing, communications, IT, social media, and communications across the business landscape.

Below are some of the key findings from the study.  They provide important insights that government organizations should consider as they move forward with their big data initiative.

  • Employees need new skills, new technologies, and new ways to combine information from multiple sources so they can make sense of all the data pouring in so they can add more value and be effective. This new way of working directly applies to and will benefit both private industry and government.
  • Organizations need departmental specialists to work with IT to create systems that are better at collecting, managing, and analyzing data. If the government is going to succeed with big data, it will need to find better ways to communicate and collaborate across organizations, with tools that can be used by technical and non-technical staff in order to make discoveries and quickly act.
  • Enterprise businesses need a single, cross-channel platform to manage their data flows. The same is likely to hold true for government agencies that have typically been hamstrung in their data analysis because information is spread across multiple different, disconnected silos and multiple public and private organizations.
  • Seventy-five percent indicate that data has the potential to dramatically improve their business; however, 58 percent report that their organizations don’t have the quantitative skills and technology needed to analyze the data.  More than 70 percent report they can’t effectively leverage the full value of their customer data. Effectively harnessing the power of big data across the myriad of government entities could be the key to boosting the long-term economic health of the nation.
  • 90% indicate that digital marketing can reduce customer acquisition costs through increased efficiency, but 46% report that they lack the information they need to communicate the benefits of big data to management. Efficiently analyzing and mining insights from the zetabytes of government data will be essential. And the launch of the Big Data initiative underscores that government is facing many of the same challenges as the private sector.

The Big Opportunity

We applaud the government’s investment in big data as it is a key issue that holds considerable opportunity for businesses and government organizations alike.  Its real-time analysis can be applied to make better, data-driven decisions, whether it is for marketers, healthcare providers, soldiers, mathematicians, or meteorologists – the possibilities are endless.

Moreover, big data platforms – the engines that churn through the huge volumes of bits and bytes that make up big data — can also help automate many processes, from helping large enterprise organizations purchase digital advertising around the globe, to helping the Department of Defense use sensor data, sentiment, and decision support systems to make “truly autonomous systems that can maneuver and make decisions of their own.”

Ultimately, big data has the power to fuel economic growth by enabling businesses and government entities to process, organize, and make discoveries from huge volumes of digital data. Overall, it has the potential to touch every facet of our lives in the future.

Julie Ginces is Vice President of Marketing at DataXu.

Related Stories

7 Big Winners in the U.S. Big Data Drive

Six Big Name Schools with Big Data Programs

Data Mining for the Masses