Big Data and the Big Opportunity for Federal Government

It’s no secret. We’re producing so much information daily that the world’s data is expected to double every two years. Data analytics is no longer a discussion point or an idea. We are living in a world of big data. This is especially true in the public sector with petabytes of information accumulating across the Federal government. Military and civilian personnel records, veterans’ benefits, genomics data, financial archives and health records for hundreds of millions of individuals sit on various Federal systems and agencies’ archives. However, on average, 31 percent of Federal agency data is unstructured and trapped in legacy systems or in paper form – essentially deeming it unusable.

Leaving this data untouched is not an option for Federal agencies. The President’s Council on Advisors of Science and Technology has ordered that every Federal agency have a strategy to manage the exploding volume of information and capitalize on the benefits data analysis can deliver. Further, the Administration’s Open Data Policy requires agencies to collect information in a way that supports downstream information processing, plan ahead when building or modifying systems to facilitate public distribution of non-confidential, non-private data, and strengthen data management and privacy practices.   Information is a valuable national resource and a strategic Federal asset that can, among other things:

  • Improve the quality and speed of decision-making, planning and forecasting.
  • Identify future at-risk borrowers to enable proactive and preventive measure to be taken.
  • Detect trends and patterns, such as fraudulent activity, faster.
  • Optimize and enhance internal processes for operational efficiencies and improved service.
  • Meet compliance requirements.
  • Better safeguard sensitive information.
  • Reduce operating or capital expenses.
  • Increase public access to valuable government information.

And there are more than just operational benefits to analyzing big data that will impact governments. Over the next decade, this trend will influence agencies and citizen engagement in the following ways:

  1. Citizen Service – Not only does data analytics technology help Federal agencies uncover valuable insight on citizens, it also gives Federal employees on-demand access to information to serve citizens better. With more information at their fingertips, customer service representatives can reference past interactions and pull data about a citizen to quickly and effectively solve issues, ultimately increasing customer service and experience.
  2. Resource Allocation – Data analysis on government spending gives agencies and the public a better understanding of where funds are going versus where they should be. This examination will help agencies allocate resources and improve cost efficiencies.
  3. Decision Making – As stated before, data analysis helps expose patterns and relationships, and this invaluable understanding enables agencies to make more informed, data-driven decisions, leading to better outcomes.
  4. Policy Making – A comprehensive view of big data helps lawmakers connect the dots on a wide range of converging areas, such as cost and feasibly of enforcement, compliance with existing policy and arising citizen needs. Moreover, the data does not just inform what policies are needed but also how it should be most effectively designed.

But big data analysis isn’t easy. What makes analysis difficult are the three ‘V’s: data volume, the velocity with which data arrives, and variety of the data. To turn raw data into actionable intelligence, government agencies must invest in a customized set of solutions to address these challenges.

Although this may seem daunting to agencies, there are four things to keep in mind when you’re ready to take action and reap the benefits.

Tip 1: Address problems that matter. Focus on agency business priorities that improve customer and constituent experiences.

Tip 2: Start with a trial project. Experiment and gain valuable insights before increasing the scale of your agency’s data analytics efforts and investments

Tip 3: Take a “data-centric” rather than a “system centric” approach. Focus on open formats, data standards, extensible metadata, and data stewardship rather than the next “killer analytics platform”.

Tip 4: Collaborate early with knowledgeable partners who can make sense of your business problems and apply available technologies to create practical, achievable solutions.

Xerox understands the challenges and opportunities posed by the explosion and inherent value of data. We believe that Federal agencies are just starting to realize the potential value in their information assets. By using natural language processing, speech and image analytics, machine learning, graph analytics and predictive modeling, Xerox Federal Solutions helps agencies find the hidden treasures of new insights and opportunities beneath unstructured and seemingly non-relational data.

About the Author

Jim Williamson is the CTO of Xerox Federal Solutions and James Bessin is the Vice President of Xerox Federal Solutions

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