Governments around the world understand the importance of a national ICT infrastructure and the role it can play in the economic and social development of a country.
However, there is a significant industry trend called Big Data that, I believe, presents a major opportunity for governments to deliver more targeted services to citizens and businesses.
Three key aspects of Big Data are already impacting governments around the world:
- Volume: Each interaction with a government entity creates digital records, network traffic, and storage requirements. The compound annual growth rates of global consumer and business data are expected to climb by 36 percent and 22 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2015.
- Velocity: Data is being collected at greater and greater speeds. One example of the new velocity of data is the U.K. government’s transition to real-time tax reporting, where employers submit earnings and taxation information on a monthly rather than annual basis.
- Variety: In addition to traditional documents and forms, governments now must deal with torrents of less-structured data such as video from public safety and security systems, along with social media feedback. The multiple channels through which people now interact with government have also created a challenge.
It is not the data itself that creates innovative opportunities for governments, but the potential for analytics and insight around this vast array of information across many formats. Big Data could enable governments to shorten the daily commute for citizens by developing predictive analytics on traffic flows and actual traffic data affecting traffic signaling in real time. Or perhaps governments could help with rapid identification and control of disease outbreaks—from flu, to infectious diseases, to food contaminants.
One example is an online application from a geospatial mapping company that applied trend analysis to help responders to Australia’s recent floods maximize the relevance of social media reporting. This web app shows how crowdsourced social intelligence provided by Ushahidi enables emergency social data to be integrated into crisis response in a meaningful way. The Australian flooding web app includes the ability to toggle layers from OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery, topography, and filter by time or report type. By adding structured social data, the web app provides valuable situational awareness that goes beyond standard reporting, including the locations of property damage, affected roads, hazards, evacuations, and power outages.
Ultimately, a better understanding of the way in which public services are consumed, mapped to population/demographic data, can enable a much more efficient service delivery ecosystem that reduces waste.
Perhaps the “killer app” for a government cloud is enabling a Big Data revolution. By its very nature, the computational and storage demands of most Big Data applications are volatile and therefore well suited to a cloud infrastructure, enabling multiple government departments to share a single scalable platform for analytics. Furthermore, it is essential to bring data together in a common format and a single view to unleash the maximum potential; a government cloud can fulfill the role of a “data federation” for the public sector. Finally the issue of trust can be managed through the creation of a secure private cloud infrastructure.
While a Big Data vision may seem a challenging stretch for some, the reality is that there already are isolated examples of governments bringing together data from multiple sources to make policy decisions. However, the “siloed” nature of these solutions makes them more expensive to build and challenging to maintain. As a result, governments now have an ideal opportunity to put Big Data at the heart of their discussions on government cloud.
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