Can Big Data Help Solve Big Problems?
Google Flu Trends (GFT) is a poster child for big data gone wrong. Under this program, Google tracked flu-related searches, as the company expected those with the flu to search how to treat it. However, in 2013, Google miscalculated the outbreak of flu season. Why? Most notably, flu symptoms aren’t unique to the flu, and sometimes a Google search is simply just a curious search. As Google learned, a lot of data doesn’t necessarily mean it’s quality data.
Creating and managing valuable big data is an ongoing challenge not only for giant tech companies like Google but also for the Government. Government Agencies produce data every day and, soon, new appointees are likely to request information regarding programs and costs related to new policies. With a business-minded approach, the new Administration may choose to analyze this information to cut down on operation costs and enhance knowledge sharing.
We recommend the new Administration establish an analytics team to manage and process official information requests to reduce costs and assist with common national issues like healthcare and unemployment. The team would make data that isn’t sensitive available to the public. The Government can use the data to produce metrics to make more informed decisions about operations, policies, and management while simultaneously improving transparency with the public.
For example, the new Administration can implement a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STAT program (DHSstat) – similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) STAT program (FEMAstat)) – responsible for managing performance and collecting data and outcomes with great visibility. The program would use data to identify gaps, track performance, and recognize opportunities to support DHS mission and performance.
Big data output has the opportunity to impact everything from small, daily decisions to larger, nationwide issues. By implementing an analytics team and STAT programs, the new Administration can use a more data-centric approach to handle potential economic and security issues while improving transparency with the American public.
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