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Government risks missing benefits of big data with focus on storage

Kathleen Hall

Government risks missing the opportunities of big data by getting bogged down in storage technologies rather than analytics, according to research.

A report from IDC found that governments were focusing on technical implementations around the storage of big data rather than ways it could be used to drive efficiencies and cost-savings.

The technology-centric approach risks neglecting information management strategy, governance, and policy – the areas of insightful analysis, said Silvia Piai, research manager at IDC.

“In some cases, it will be practically impossible to deal with the tsunami of data in terms of volume, unless alternatives – such as cloud or changes in retention policies –  are considered,” she said.

Max Claps, one of the authors of the report, added it was important that government identifies pilot programmes and works with data analysts to sift data.

He said the lack of big data talent was an issue in government, but shouldn’t result in the misconception that it is necessary to be a data scientist in order to use big data. "Big data analytics doesn't have to involve a big upgrade to a department’s SAP systems," he added.

"Government needs to look at it from a strategic point of view, what it can do in terms of better resourcing on procurements, injecting more intelligence into buying trends and making better decisions. And identifying inefficiencies such as discovering under- reporting tax payers,” Claps said.

“It also doesn’t need to be something done by the IT department. IT can provide some of the analytical tools, but it should be the business owners and executives leading the programme.

Chris Yiu, director of think tank Policy Exchange, agreed that government is not using the data it has to full effect.  

“Government has a huge quantity of data that has to be stored, but is missing a trick on the analytics side. It should use data to drive insights into what it is citizens need from public services in future, and deliver better experience and efficiencies.”

Policy Exchange claimed last year government could save £33bn by using big data analytics. The think tank also called for government to hire a dedicated team of data scientists.

“But I have heard anecdotally departments are looking at hiring data scientists, such as the government digital service. Also the launch of the GDS digital transactions tool isn’t quite big data, but it is moving in the right direction.”

 


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