Public Sector News: Seizing opportunities for transformation through analytics

June 2015, Issue 8

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

A previous Public Sector News issue included articles that focused on striking a balance between data and privacy. While that challenge is ever present given the persistence of cyberthreats, the news for the week of June 8, 2015 included the opportunities, innovation, transformation and good that big data and analytics brings. Here are this week’s news highlights.

Video: A business guide to going big with big data

According to Michael Hendrix, Director for Emerging Issues and Research for the U.S. Chamber Foundation, “The goal of big data is not just to deliver us cool maps but to change our lives for the better and to solve really big problems.” Hendrix is correct. If business can exploit and leverage the value of data, we can create a better tomorrow. Leveraging data still means that we have to protect the privacy of citizens. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Companies should be aware of their role as trustees of data and identify risks in their data assets. Customers have entrusted their data to those they engage with [for] their business. Absent the abuse of user data or clear harms, there can and should be a large scope for consumer-friendly innovation.”—Michael Hendrix for US Chamber of Commerce

Why big data matters

“The beauty of big data is that there is so much more data today than ever before, and it continues to grow. This [condition] will allow government to know exactly what customers need and want, and how or why they do what they do.” Paul Benedetto, the former Undersecretary of the California Technology Agency, shared these and other sentiments on big data and said that he sees no pitfalls. Many pundits may debate this point with Benedetto, but he goes on to say that “the question for leaders will be whether they trust their chief information officers (CIOs) when they say the cost of big data is a fraction of the true benefits it offers.”—Paul Benedetto for

When big hearts meet big data: Six nonprofits using data to change the world

I am a huge fan and proponent for using big data for social good and not just the bottom line. The stories of these six nonprofits becoming data driven and leveraging data to promote world change really warmed my heart. The story about the Jane Goodall Institute and its mission to save endangered chimpanzees is one example. “The Jane Goodall Institute believes they can save 85 percent of the chimpanzee population that would have otherwise been lost to deforestation and over-farming. For example, if a tree gets cut down, a Forest Monitor can use his or her phone or tablet to take a picture of the chopped tree and submit coordinates to the cloud. This information is then collected into a database [that] gives the institute a clear understanding of where there might be a threat to the chimpanzees.”—Sima Thakkar for Umbel big data can inform and innovate HR in K-12 education

“Successful use of big data is not determined by how much data you collect. Success happens when data consumers understand the data and its appropriate uses for improvement,” said Emily Douglas, Human Capital Director at Battelle for Kids. Douglas may be on to something, as she advocates for using big data in hiring for K-12 education. “The human capital department has measures around teacher and leader effectiveness recruiting and retention and customer service,” Douglas said. “The department is using this data to improve processes, increase the effectiveness of its hiring practices and provide exceptional service to customers.”—Emily Douglas for Education Week

Big data could be the reason for large-scale nation state attacks

When we hear of cyberattacks, especially large-scale attacks, we can't help but wonder what’s the impetus for the attacks? In his InfoSecurity article, Phil Muncaster said that nation-state hackers may be using personally identifiable data obtained from major breaches such as the recent attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Citing cybersecurity experts, Muncaster said the hackers may be using that data to identify individuals vulnerable to follow-up attacks or even recruit them as spies.

Citing a blog posting by lead consultant Tom Williams, big data and its power comes into play: “Large data sets obtained in offensive cyberespionage operations could be interrogated by a foreign intelligence agency to improve the effectiveness of their operational targeting.” And this approach may not be just for follow-on cyberattacks, Williams said, but it also could be used to identify individuals who may be prone to coercion or could be possible recruits as human intelligence sources.—Phil Muncaster for InfoSecurity

How else can data and analytics impact our way of life? Learn more about the power of analytics in the public sector.