Skip to main content

Big data analytics can bring added efficiency to government

Rachel Wheeler Archive

Mining data on individuals can have a profound effect for companies in all sectors. Whether in retail, marketing, finance or any one of countless other industries, it can be enormously beneficial to compile information on potential customers and use it to find optimized business solutions.

The same can be said of the public sector. While big data is certainly valuable for private companies, it could perhaps become even more notable for its ability to bring efficiency to the federal government. If public institutions are able to gather information about their practices and perform their due diligence to ensure data quality, there is the potential to revamp practically everything. Hiring, training, promotion, measuring performance, preventing setbacks and identifying problems are among the procedures that insights from big data can help improve.

Stephen Goldsmith, the former two-term mayor of Indianapolis who now works as a professor of government at Harvard's Kennedy School, recently wrote about this potential for Goldsmith argued that the same way a website like or a cell phone service provider uses consumer data to influence decisions, the government can use the same technology to break down its hierarchies and find actionable knowledge.

"The greatest public value and insights come when governments, through their open data and transparency initiatives, produce usable information that allows meaningful public participation in the delivery of public services," Goldsmith writes. "The proliferation of open data sets on sites such as encourages private sector, nonprofit and interagency use of once-locked information for the public good. It also prompts important discussions on data standardization and interoperability as well as around privacy concerns."

How can big data help?
IBM has a wealth of ideas on how big data analytics can improve efficiency in government. The corporation looks specifically at two areas - security and safety, and social services.

In terms of security, the government can break down silos of data on past threats to people's safety - small issues like neighborhood crime, big ones like international terrorism and everything in between - and use it to analyze trends and predict the future.

In the social realm, officials can look into consumer spending trends, revenue management and taxation, looking at how people make money and how they spend it, in an effort to optimize every American dollar.

The possibilities are endless with big data. The more information the government has, the better equipped it will be to create an improved future for all.