Big Data

Survey: Feds believe analytics can save lives, money

infographic

A breakdown of some of the findings of the SAP/TechAmerica big-data study. (Graphic: TechAmerica)

A majority of federal IT officials believe big data and other analytics tools have the potential to make the government more efficient and improve public health and safety, according to a new study released by the TechAmerica Foundation on Feb. 20.

The survey, commissioned by SAP and conducted by pollsters Penn, Schoen and Berland, gleaned insight from 200 public IT officials at state and federal levels, of whom 75 percent or more said big data could help government cut the federal budget, save lives, enhance citizens' quality of lives and reduce crime.

TechAmerica President Jennifer Kerber said the survey results backed a big-data report the foundation presented to the Congressional High-Tech Caucus in October 2012, which attempted to define "big data" and presented several use cases detailing how agencies were making use of it.

"The findings from this study underscore the infinite potential of big data and reaffirm the findings of our big data commission," Kerber said in a statement. "That governments can save money and improve their service to citizens is clear from this study but it's also clear that we must find ways to overcome adoption barriers -- quickly."

Highlights from the survey include:

  •  Substantial budget cuts: Federal IT officials say real-time analytics of big data can help the government cut at least 10 percent annually from the federal budget by discovering wasteful spending. For example, such analytics can detect improper healthcare payments before they occur.
  •  Lifesaving potential: According to 87 percent of federal IT officials and 75 percent of state IT officials, the use of real-time big data solutions will save a significant number of lives each year. For example, medical researchers can aggregate information about healthcare outcomes to reveal patterns that lead to more effective treatments and detection of outbreaks.
  •  Crime reduction: 75 percent of state IT officials see the practical benefits of big data in medicine and public safety as extremely beneficial. Police departments are currently using big data technology to develop predictive models about when and where crimes are likely to occur, helping dramatically reduce the overall crime rate in specific locations.
  •  Enhanced quality of life: Real-time big data is helping the government improve the quality of citizens' lives, according to 75 percent of federal IT officials. For example, by gaining insight into huge volumes of data across agencies, the government can provide improved, personalized services to citizens.

While the study focuses heavily on views of big data in the future tense, many challenges remain for agencies if big data is to be the widely used tool it is sometimes touted to be.

Almost half of federal IT officials surveyed ranked privacy concerns as the "biggest barrier" toward big data adoption, citing the perceived relationship between big data and "Big Brother."

About 40 percent of federal and state It officials surveyed said high costs were another barrier cash-strapped agencies will have a tough time overcoming; and that database queries take "too long using traditional database technology.' Another 42 percent on the federal side said returns on investment lacked sufficient clarity.

Big data is not yet part of the government's "holistic" IT approach, according to Dante Ricci, senior director of SAP's global public sector, but the biggest challenges are on the human side of the equation, not the technological side.

"What we've seen so far by this survey is the education of customers and the knowledge of what big data can deliver has grown exponentially over the last 18-24 months," Ricci said. "Is this something done holistically in the government right now? No. But we're still learning how to best understand how people, policy, operational processes and user experience can fit together with big data technology enablers across enterprise."

Ricci added that certain technologies, like memory, necessary for big data platforms are getting cheaper, and touted that big data can lower the total cost of an IT landscape if implemented properly.

While it can be expensive to implement a big data solution, Ricci said agencies can get the most bang for their bucks by outlining expected outcomes, "starting small and targeting a highest-value use case," before executing a project.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group