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To tap Big Data, federal IT must partner with tech industry

Kenneth Corbin | May 16, 2013
Experts within and outside government IT stress the role the private sector must play in helping cash-strapped federal agencies find order in their growing stockpiles of data.

"That's wasted time in my opinion," says Donna Roy, executive director of the Information Sharing Environment at the DHS Office of the CIO.

"We're focusing on getting better formats, better structure, and working on how to particularly ingest data into big data systems," Roy says. "We're really leaning toward advanced concepts for tagging data."

Roy also harbors concerns that while big data solutions, in spirit, are meant to generate a unifying effect and break down barriers between disparate data sources, both the solutions developed within the federal government and those provided by the private sector are often not shared, creating what she calls "siloes of big data excellence."

"We're working on approaches to share results," says Roy, who warns private-sector providers against adopting a "black box" approach to the big data technology and services they provide the government.

But as important a role as the private sector can play in helping the federal government address big data, industry representatives would be well advised to spend more time listening to government CIOs describe their needs, according to Cellucci, who recalls being inundated with sales emails during his time in the government.

"The reason why government is hesitant towards a lot of the private sector is the private sector would push solutions looking for problems. Doesn't it make a lot more sense for the government to articulate the problem and then in an open and transparent way to ask the private sector to help?" Cellucci says.

"That's my tough love for the private sector," says Cellucci. "Educate government. Don't sell a solution looking for a problem that may not exist."


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