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Frank Stein: When we think about big data, we usually define it by the three B’s. That’s volume, velocity, and variety. So volume of course is big, lots of volume. We’re no longer talking about small files, or small databases, we’re talking about large amounts of data. The velocity has to do with fast processing. Perhaps you want to get to real time decision making. So being able to get that data, process it very quickly, and make it available so you can make decisions. In the last one, variety, we’re talking about the different types of data that are now available. In the past we were talking about numerical data predominantly stored inside of a database. Now we’re talking about all sorts of unstructured data. We’re talking about tweets, social media, blogs, video, audio files, and how do you take advantage of that whole series of data. Now there’s really a fourth V, and that’s value. The question is how do you get value out of the data. That’s really where analytics comes into play.
Q: How can government use big data to optimize?
Frank Stein: There’s lots of different ways the government can use big data. Let’s start with healthcare. Healthcare is a big expense to government agencies. No matter what level of government we’re talking about; national, state, local, they all have to deal with the issue of healthcare. We’re coming online now with a lot of electronic health records, EHRs. These health records can be analyzed to get a better understanding of where our costs are. They can also be used to get a better handle on what’s the best treatment given a set of circumstances. If you analyze a large population, you may be able to determine what’s the best treatment, what’s the best approach to different types of problems that we’re having. So that’s an example in the healthcare field.
We can also use this in other fields. We can use this in the transportation field, help do transportation planning, help reduce congestion by analyzing all of the data, large volumes of data and traffic coming in. We can use this in the field of law enforcement. We’re working with a number of law enforcement agencies now to use all sorts of data. Not just the internal data that exists within law enforcement agencies, but external information. Some is coming from social media, weather data, all sorts of things, to be able to do a better job of predicting when crime will occur, and in some cases, to help solve crimes.
The other big area that all agencies are concerned with today is reducing improper payments, or waste, fraud, and abuse. That’s another area where we can start using big data approaches to try to reduce the amount of improper payments. It’s not just about using the data that’s internal to the agency, but to take that internal data, and merge it with external data that they can find. To help understand is there a match between the internal data and the external data that may indicate that there is an improper payment going on. We can also do modeling. So we can do some predictions and say, this looks suspicious. We’ve done some predictive analysis that would determine that we believe that with 90 percent that this may be a fraudulent, or an improper payment of some sort.
Q: Is big data just another government buzzword?
Frank Stein: Well there has been a lot of buzzwords in government, and a lot of acronyms, and so forth. I don’t think that big data is just a passing fad. I don’t think it’s just a hype kind of thing. The reason is that governments have major problems. Up until this time we haven’t always been able to solve those problems. But by using big data we’re actually seeing that we can get efficiencies in the government, that they can better solve their problems. The reason for this is that now we’re finally at the point that we are collecting a lot of data in government. In the past we couldn’t necessarily use it. Now we actually have the systems and technology that can do the data mining, that can do the analytics on that big data to make it of value. The third point to make here is that it’s now finally affordable. The IT technology has come down in price so much that we can actually handle all these big data kind of problems that we couldn’t handle before, and use it to provide value to our government agencies.