By now, I trust that many of you have read all there is to read about last night’s debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. A subject that was noticeably absent from the discussion was Big Data. Here, I’m not referring to use of Big Data to predict the November ballot’s winner such as Professor Jacobson’s models. I’m not referring to this quick and funny video interview that my team produced this week: “Obama’s views on Big Data”.
I’m referring to the work that both Republicans and Democrats have pushed through in order to solve some of the basic issues the Nation has with agencies’ data. If you look close enough, you’ll find that many of the principles government has to deal with, are similar to the issues regular companies struggle with.
Get everyone on the same page
Although this might sound a little cliché, defining a set of principles and standards is important for all. The Data Act, which the House passed in April is an attempt to institute standardization, accountability and transparency for U.S. budget spending. The “DATA” in Data Act stands for Digital Accountability and Transparency Act and it is meant to help U.S. taxpayers understand where their tax money is going. Tim O’Reilly, Founder of O’Reilly Media, rightfully said in a recent video about it: “half of our spending doesn’t work, we just don’t know which half”. With this act, the government is finally making inroads using technology to enhance spend visibility.
Winning with Data is still too hard
Winning with Data is not an easy game today. The Data.gov initiative launched in 2009 by the Vivek Kundra – the US first ever Chief Information Officer – was designed to publish vast amounts of government datasets for public use. Mr. Kundra even rolled out the “IT Dashboard” to track the $70B+ spent by the U.S government in IT. However, budget for Data.gov was cut by 75% in April 2011 and Vivek left his post in June of the same year.
There is a lot to look up to though. From Edward Tufte’s appointment to the White House Advisory Board to the $200M Big Data Research and Development Initiative unveiled in March 2012, the government’s has a clear opportunity to win with Big Data.
This committment shouldn’t be taken lightly. Only, of course, if you want to have a quick laugh. In which case, you can revert to this video!