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Is big data the answer to business and government problems?

Paul Newman Archive
Businesses readily adopted big data in 2012 as its advantages became well-known and the technology's costs decreased. By tapping massive amounts of information and checking them for data quality, companies can use information in real-time to make better decisions about product placement and shipments, advertising campaigns and promotional offers. In fact, a recent Forbes article suggests that failing to take advantage of big data could ultimately cause businesses to fail.

So as not to fall behind, the federal government is also getting involved, with the hope of extracting knowledge about science and health, defense and energy.

"What private enterprises are doing is much more directed and focused ... But big data initiatives need to have concrete goals. You shouldn't be just going on fishing expeditions. And it's hard for government at the federal level to move that way," Dan Olds, founder of IT advisory firm Gabriel Consulting Group and chief editor of the blog "Inside-BigData," told Federal Computer Week.

Instead, the government is providing funding for projects that have a much larger scale. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced $15 million for research projects that are expected to advance scientific work through investigations and engineering studies.