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Big Data still 'a new frontier' for most of the public sector

Taylor Armerding | March 12, 2014
NSA surveillance technology is cutting edge, but for most of the government, Big Data analytics is a promise unfulfilled.

It will also take more cooperation, according to Clark. "Data sharing is critical for Big Data analytics, and I see that the private sector as a whole is able to share their data more easily with one another than the public sector has been able to over the last decade" he said.

And it will take investment. Petersen said he thinks the "overall impediment to use of Big Data in the public sector is cost. Big Data projects are expensive, very similar to home-grown application development." But, done right, they could, "likely enable the delivery of higher quality services at a lower overall cost," he said.

Clark said it is important for the public sector to make that investment to avoid a widening "technology gap. If the approximate 18-month gap grows to over 36 months, which is two technology cycles based on Moore's Law, it will be very difficult for the public sector to leverage the cost efficiencies of private commercial technology solutions," he said.

But Gary King, director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, said things can change quickly in both the private and public sector. "Large parts of the commercial sector are also far behind what could be done," he said. "This is a dynamic field with fast progress."


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