The potential impact of Big Data for government organizations


Big data is being implemented with success in the private sector and science. Yet the public sector seems to be falling behind, despite the potential value of big data for government. Government organizations do recognize the opportunities of big data but seem uncertain about whether they are ready for the introduction of big data, and if they are adequately equipped to use big data. This paper addresses those uncertainties. It presents an assessment framework for evaluating public organizations’ big data readiness.


The results suggest that organizations may be technically capable of using big data, but they will not significantly gain from these activities if the applications do not fit their organizations and main statutory tasks.


The framework proved helpful in pointing out areas where public sector organizations could improve, providing guidance on how government can become more big data ready in the future.


Klievink, B., Romijn, BJ., Cunningham, S. et al. Inf Syst Front (2017) 19: 267.


Expert opinions

There are several experts who agree with the results of this research. Implementing big data in government organisation can unlock new possibilities, but not every company recognizes this potential. 
'With the amount of stored information growing four times as fast as the world economy – and the processing power of computers nine times faster – the most striking aspect of big data is its sheer scale. Yet for consumer brands, suppliers and retailers, the quest to realize the immense promise of data analytics doesn’t begin with zettabytes, software packages or organograms depicting real – or imagined – flows of information, it starts with a spot of self-analysis.

Eddie Short, Partner and Lead for Data and Analytics at KPMG in the UK and EMA, says: “It’s not all about the numbers behind the strategy, it’s about the strategy behind the numbers. You need to understand the key drivers of value in your business, make sure you have a clear line of sight between data and your strategic priorities and make sure you have the processes you need to convert data into actionable insight.”

Big data is an urgent challenge but the temptation to act now and discuss later should be resisted. Understanding your priorities is crucial if you are to achieve the requisite return on investment.

Amazon has relied on analytics that support the organization’s core purpose – and its culture of metrics – to achieve its growth targets. “Successful companies in this area,” Short says, “recognize that analytics is not just about driving profits but helping monitor trends internally and externally, which helps them stay ahead of customers, suppliers and their competitors. So, for example, if you’re doing sentiment analysis on social media, you might identify a trend six months before your rivals and steal a march on them.”

Although some analysts argue that big data’s algorithms can replace managers as decision-makers, Short says: “Management insight remains a vital part. The deeper your insight into your business, the less you will have to rely on the kind of mathematical muscle Google brings to big data. Often, even when the data scientists have interpreted the information, it may not present you with one solution. It may suggest there is an opportunity – or problem – to be faced and your experience, insight or instinct could guide your response.”' - Source: KPMG 

Data-guided management 

'To grasp the potential impact of Big Data, look to the microscope, says Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. The microscope, invented four centuries ago, allowed people to see and measure things as never before — at the cellular level. It was a revolution in measurement. Data measurement, Professor Brynjolfsson explains, is the modern equivalent of the microscope. Google searches, Facebook posts and Twitter messages, for example, make it possible to measure behavior and sentiment in fine detail and as it happens.

Research by Professor Brynjolfsson and two other colleagues, published last year, suggests that data-guided management is spreading across corporate America and starting to pay off. They studied 179 large companies and found that those adopting "data-driven decision making" achieved productivity gains that were 5 percent to 6 percent higher than other factors could explain.' - Source: The New York Times


- Source: YouTube 

 Gap industry and data analytics 

'Mike Olson, one of the founders of Cloudera: “What’s happened in the last few years is an explosion – not just of vendors of the platform, companies like ours – but also a rich ecosystem of other companies innovating in the space, adding value and also competing to drive real value for the customer.”

New, innovative tools will also, in part, be the answer to another problem facing the analytics field – the growing gap between industry’s (and the world’s) need for data analytics, and the number of people trained to carry it out.' - Source: Forbes 

Government agencies 

'Government agencies should explore economically viable automated records management technologies and solutions to reduce the burden of records management responsibilities. Technology is continuously evolving to provide advanced solutions to support data backup, recovery, and archiving requirements. Storage infrastructure that is capable of addressing the specific demands around data volume, velocity, and variety will be critical for government agencies to successfully use and process Big Data. Greater visibility into organizational information — together with the ability to produce documentation when needed — allows agencies to enhance employee efficiency and productivity, respond to questions, make informed decisions by connecting the related and unrelated information, and provide the information needed for transparency, collaboration, and participatory government.

Agencies should also strategically respond to the growth of data with plans that address the storage of traditional data as well as the storage of digital information — structured and unstructured and metadata. Budgetary constraints are forcing agencies to rightsize their Big Data information storage. Plans should include the growing roles of tiered storage, tape, and cloud-based backup and recovery as well as an analysis of the cost versus the benefit of multiple storage choices.

Tape provides efficient, cost-effective, and reliable storage for nonactive, rarely requested data. It allows government agencies to keep valuable enterprise data secure on tape media. The majority of government information is likely inactive. Tape offers long-life, highcapacity storage for long-term data retention to support compliance as well as archiving of nonactive data.Tape-based backup and recovery offers a more reliable and economical option than disk-based solutions, but it requires more hands-on management. Tiering data storage with disk and tape versus only disk storage can provide a more cost-effective storage medium for nonactive data, enabling agencies to optimize onsite and offsite backup processes.' - Source: Iron Mountain 

 Conclusion research

'The test of the researchers’ assessment framework in the Dutch public sector showed that overall, the Dutch public sector was not entirely ready for the large-scale introduction of big data and should further develop its readiness for big data use. In general, the organizations we assessed did not seem to fully understand that big data applications would add value to their organizations only if they supported and were supported by all the main organizational activities. Unlike organizations in the private sector, where big data can unlock new possibilities and enable new goals, the mere fact that big data and the tools to analyze it are available does not in itself constitute a value proposition for the public sector.

These organizations’ goals are often given, and they must guide big data use. Organizations may be technically capable of using big data, but they will not significantly gain from these activities if the applications do not fit their organizations and main statutory tasks. Organizations that were more experienced in using data seemed to better understand the organizational implications of big data, compared to organizations that used data less intensively, regardless of how set they were on the path towards actual big data use. Areas of improvement for the public sector were identified. These provide helpful pointers for practitioners seeking to improve the big data readiness of their organizations. They could also point national government towards areas where common organizational constraints can be overcome collectively.' - Source: Springer Link  



Edited by Eline Ammeraal 


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