Big Data has Big Promise in the Public Sector

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 3.44.18 PMBig data’s generating a lot of buzz these days — or is it hype? One thing’s for certain — big data is everywhere, and governments are no exception. Most governments collect and have access to as much, if not more data, than the private sector. The National Institutes of Health, for example, can access five million pictures of tumors. How many private healthcare institutions can make that claim?

Big data isn’t a magic bullet — those are in short supply — but it presents very real opportunities to transform public service by driving dramatic improvements to both citizen-facing services and internal workflow. Federal, state and local governments alike are sitting on a treasure trove of information, but often don’t know what to do with it or how to use it.

In the private sector, large retailers, manufacturing companies and financial organizations have led the big data charge. Sophisticated algorithms help banks decide if a mortgage is risky and evaluate customer purchases to determine if they are unauthorized.

Social networks serve up customized news feeds based on users’ likes and friend lists. Target made headlines by analyzing purchases to determine when a customer becomes pregnant,2 and pioneered the use of data such as purchase history and product ratings and reviews to suggest personalized recommendations.

This research report reveals how innovative governments can follow the private sector’s lead to find creative ways of using big data to improve service delivery, increase productivity and lower costs.

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