Dr karandeep Singh
Dr karandeep Singh 23 July 2014

What Big Data means for the Public Sector

In this post, we'll be exploring the possibilities of harnessing Big Data to benefit the public sector.

We generate data everywhere, every day, in many different forms; from our phones, to our payment cards, to our smart televisions, and computing devices. Even the infrastructure of where we live creates data – the traffic signals, speed cameras, billboards, buses; anything that contains a micro-processor or sensor-equipped, provides data about us.


With an estimated “2.5 quintillion bytes of data” produced every day, it’s vital to be looking at how you can utilise the data available to help grow your business.

In this post, we’ll be exploring the possibilities of harnessing Big Data to benefit the public sector.


Big Data in the Public Sector


Armed forces

There are endless opportunities to use big data in the public sector. One example would be allocating armed forces (police, army) resources by predicting when and where crimes, or war-like situations, are most likely to occur.



In the Healthcare sector, there is a boundless amount of data available about every patient, including condition/procedures, medication, and medical history.

A recent example of big data in action was a solution created by IBM for Brigham & Women’s Hospital. This application of big data allowed for multiple drug studies to be conducted simultaneously, allowing researchers to design, test, and apply brand-new algorithms to quickly identify drug risk warning signals.

Another example saw Google analysing clusters of regional search terms to predict flu outbreaks faster than was possible using traditional hospital admission records.



Big data can be applied throughout the public sector. In the agricultural arena, genomic analysis is now being used extensively to speed up the breeding of crops (such as rice) for drought resistance.


The Big Data movement


IQSS (Institute for Quantitative Social Science) is a centre of expertise for multi-disciplinary assignments intended at solving the problems around us in society.

Gary King, the director of IQSS says, “There is a movement of quantification rumbling across fields in academia and science, industry and government and non-profits.”

King reports that many of faculty members in the government department are doing some type of data analysis, as are members of the sociology, economics, public health, medical, and law departments.


It’s hard to find or think of an area that hasn’t been affected by big data.

While big data can seem daunting, a good resource for CIOs in the public sector to get to grips with it is 17 Steps to Implement a Public Sector Big Data Project. This provides a tailored 3-stage process from start to square one (which can often be the trickiest stage).


Qualitative Experts and Statistical Researchers


In every field big data follows a similar pattern; first comes the qualitative experts in their field, followed then by the statistical researchers (who may or may not know the details of the field). The statistical researchers use sophisticated tools and advanced data analysis, to add tremendous insight and value to the sector.


The future of Big Data


There are many more potential benefits of big data in society that are yet to be explored. By developing a deeper understanding of what big data is, and how it can be applied, it can be utilised for limitless possibilities.


With the improvement of enhanced statistical and computational methods, the big data revolution is already under way. The public sector is generating terabytes of data every day and it’s time for it to start being put to good use.


Academics have less access to the real world data than modern day businesses, especially social-science data which has big restrictions when it comes to the research capabilities. The greatest potential for using big data to its fullest is in the fields of public health and medicine where people are suffering or even dying every day simply because data is either not being used or shared properly.


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