January saw President Obama call for a comprehensive report on the transformational power of big data. Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values arrived in May, offering analysis and a series of policy recommendations to help realize the benefits of big data in areas like health care, education, public safety and energy efficiency while protecting personal privacy. Meanwhile, state and local governments in 2014 grabbed hold of big data’s potential, making bold moves toward applying it to real problems — efforts which promise to reap even greater rewards in coming years.
The Indiana Management and Performance Hub, championed by Gov. Mike Pence, is a multi-agency effort establishing centralized data-sharing capabilities. But the power of this big data warehouse will come in the opportunities for analysis it provides. The state is setting its sights on real problems that coordinated data can help address — job No. 1 is chipping away at the state’s infant mortality rate. Analyzing performance indicators across state agencies will improve upon Indiana’s already award-winning transparency efforts and unlock more ways of putting the data to work.
The Florida Department of Children and Family Services is working on a similar effort — using data to identify at-risk kids and families, and applying public resources to the most vulnerable. Data is helping refine intervention methods based on the best chance at success.
The Iowa Department of Workforce Development is applying big data analytics to another vexing problem: unemployment fraud, which costs government billions each year. A cloud solution analyzes publicly available data sets to flag potentially fraudulent claims, handing them off to government investigators.
Local governments are setting their sights on data-driven decision-making too. A grant-funded pilot project in Chicago places sensors on downtown light poles to collect block-level weather and air quality data as well as pedestrian traffic estimates, all released in real time on the city’s data portal.