Public Sector News: Data in cities, education and government

May 2015, Issue 6

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

These stories, spanning the public sector, touch on how cities are using data to impact water consumption, bus systems and even street lighting. The role of analytics in education comes up as well with a look at the ongoing privacy debate. We also take a look at government and government agencies and how they are handling cyber threats. Specifically, are governments doing enough to protect citizens’ data?

From police to pipes: Fresno is leveraging big data to improve city functions

Businesses aren’t the only entities that can use data and analytics to impact their bottom line. Many recent stories document transforming cities with analytics. In Fresno, California, City Manager Bruce Rudd shares that since the recession the city has been relying on big data to help improve city functions. “We have been, over the last couple years, beginning to shift to data-driven outcomes, or business analytics. So street lights, water consumption, even our bus system, [are] all being driven in large part by the data that is being collected on a daily basis.”—Jeffrey Hess for Valley Public Radio data equals big responsibility

The big data and privacy debate is fodder for many water cooler chats. Educators, students, parents and government officials alike are still trying to find that seemingly nebulous balance between big data and privacy in education. “The challenge for education technology providers, of course, is that with great power comes great responsibility,” Jack West writes in a recent EdSurge article. Proposed bipartisan legislation—the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act (SDPPRA)—is pending passage in Congress. If it passes, “the local education agencies and the technology companies they hire will still need to define what should and should not be done with education data available in the cloud and elsewhere.”—Jack West for EdSurge 

Breaches wreak havoc while the government plays catch-up

An app for this, an app for that, an app for then, an app for now—the proliferation of social media, mobile apps, connected devices and data leaves our economy ripe for data breaches. Government agencies are then tasked with applying the right technologies such as advanced analytics to stem data breaches and fraud. Just this week, news broke that criminals penetrated the IRS to pilfer nearly $50 million in refunds that belonged to more than 100,000 taxpayers. The agency claimed the perpetrators had seized data from other breaches. “These are extremely sophisticated criminals with access to a tremendous amount of data,” said an IRS spokesperson on Tuesday. The tax breach has drawn fire from critics who say that the government should have done a better job protecting citizens’ data.—Farai Chideya for The Intercept 

Knowledge is power: How big data is transforming education

According to Kenneth Cukier, data editor at The Economist and coauthor of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, “Data, if analyzed with precision, can be hugely valuable in many walks of life.” This statement is particularly true in education as educators re-imagine the way they teach with big data. “A particular example,” according to Cukier, “is Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in which teachers are able to assess their students' strengths and weaknesses by analyzing their online learning habits.” Cukier also tells the story of a professor at Stanford who analyzed data to understand how his students were learning. The teacher then determined that he needed to provide better pre-work for the class or perhaps even adjust his style of instruction.—Maha Barada for Euronews

Schools retool as big data shapes industry demands

Ron McMillan, academic coordinator for business intelligence (BI) and analytics at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), said that for big data and business analytics, “there will be a shortage of workers in these areas, especially in North America.” Schools are now tasked with preparing tomorrow’s workforce for the data deluge and the shortage of data experts that it brings. According to Tyler Orton’s article in Business Vancouver, BCIT partnered with Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA), a nonprofit organization. It “trains students and researchers to take data sets that look like little more than impenetrable piles of numbers to the average person and reshape [them] into charts, graphs and maps people can make sense of.”—Tyler Orton for Business Vancouver 

How would you like to see data and analytics impact your way of life? Learn more about the power of analytics in the public sector.