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FCW : September 30, 2013
Commentary | BILL CULL There is enormous opportunity ahead for government agencies to use big-data technologies to manage data growth, gain new insights and be more innovative. Here are some of the ways big data is already beginning to transform government. 1. Enhancing security and preventing fraud In May 2012, the multi-agency Medi- care Fraud Strike Force uncovered $452 million in false billings in the biggest crackdown on Medicare fraud in history. At the time, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge David Welker said 3 percent to 10 per- cent of the country s $2.5 trillion in annual health care expenditures are attributed to fraud. Despite the progress government and law enforcement agencies have made, they have a long way to go. Big data can help. A large part of fraud detection is looking for pat- terns and anomalous activity. Using big-data analysis, security experts can track patterns and discover unknown threats in real time, inci- dent response teams can monitor known threats and other suspi- cious behavior, and law enforce- ment agents can correlate historical data to help prevent future cases of fraud. Other situations require real-time analysis to combat serious threats before they occur. For example, the Department of Homeland Security is using big-data tools to analyze cargo traf c from entry and exit ports to ensure that the global sup- ply chain is secure. 2. Improving service delivery and emergency response At the state and local level, several jurisdictions are using big-data tools to monitor complex transportation systems. Real-time analysis allows of cials to anticipate problems that could disrupt transportation ow, while alleviating traf c congestion and addressing other transit issues. Cities are also using the data from 311 information systems to tackle emergency management problems. By analyzing text mes- sages, phone calls and social media posts, rst responders can get a better sense of where to focus their efforts. Advanced big-data technologies are also helping cities re ne their disaster response and information-collecting mechanisms by improving the way people funnel their communications through 911 and 311 lines. 3. Democratizing information Those 311 systems are based on open-data platforms, and their datasets serve as a rich resource for developers, civic groups and anyone else who wants to build applications for government. At the federal level, the Obama administration s recent open-data executive order has breathed new life into an idea agencies have been working on with little guid- ance until now. However, we have already seen the movement take off in ways that will set an example for the rest of the government. For example, in light of high- pro le public disclosures on hospi- tal prices, we ll soon see more open health care data that empowers patients. People will have access to information about which hospitals provide the most cost-effective heart bypass surgery or hernia repair procedures. That will encour- age hospitals to offer the best pos- sible service at the best possible price for local customers. As government continues to tap into big-data technologies, we ll see open-data platforms become cus- tomary as people, business leaders and policymakers come together to determine how this country should be governed. Although the power, opportunities and capabilities lie within big data, it will be the peo- ple, policies and initiatives that will make a difference in how the data is used to make our government more secure, ef cient and open. ■ 3 ways big data is transforming government The technology is important, but openness and stakeholder input are what really make a difference Open-data platforms will become customary as people come together to determine how this country should be governed. BILL CULL is vice president of the public sector at Splunk, which provides software that collects, indexes and harnesses machine-generated big data. September 30, 2013 FCW.COM 15
September 15, 2013
October 30, 2013