Government IT Pros See Savings, Challenges In Big Data

Big data may cut budgets, fight crime, cure diseases and personalize services, say federal and state IT officials in TechAmerica/SAP survey.
Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA
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A majority of government IT professionals believe big data can have a major impact on the way their agencies operate, according to a report released Thursday by TechAmerica and SAP.

The report, "Big Data and the Public Sector," is based on a survey of 198 IT decision makers in state and federal government. According to the survey, 83% of federal IT officials estimate that the use of big data could lead to cost savings of 10% or more. Based on the size of the federal budget, that would translate into $380 billion in potential savings.

Three-quarters of the state IT decision makers surveyed said big data would benefit public safety. For example, police departments are starting to develop predictive models to detect when and where crimes are likely to occur, the report said.

[ Curious how local governments tap technology to improve services? See 10 Cities Raise Tech IQs In IBM Challenge. ]

Another potential benefit is the ability to personalize government services, according to 75% of federal IT respondents. Both federal (87%) and state (75%) respondents cited big data use in healthcare as a way of detecting diseases and finding more effective treatments.

The White House launched a federal big data initiative last March. Six federal agencies -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the departments of Defense and Energy, National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) -- plan to collectively invest $200 million in big data research and development.

But the magnitude of data volumes and related costs, as well as concerns about privacy, remain challenges. Privacy was mentioned as the biggest barrier to adoption by 47% of federal IT pros surveyed. Uncertainty about return on investment is an issue for 42% of federal respondents. And 39% worry about the high cost of deploying new tools and the level of investment needed.

Although most of the government IT decision makers surveyed are satisfied with the way their organizations handle big data, they identified areas for improvement. Those include more effective storage for large amounts of information, breaking existing silos that make it difficult to make timely decisions, a need for central management, and creating policies that are enforced.

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Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing