According to TechAmerica, organizations around the world accumulated 1.8 zetabytes of information in 2011, and that amount is expected to double each year.

Bill Cull, vice president of public sector business at Splunk, predicts that the big data surge will improve state and local government's operational intelligence next year, especially in health and human services.        

Specifically, the public sector will analyze gargantuan data sets for anomalies that could reveal fraud and wasteful processes. Statistical data will also help employees increase efficiency to better serve taxpayers. Cull’s company provides clients with data visualization tools, and he’s seen several public-sector customers request Splunk’s assistance for health and human services purposes.

“Big data will be taken advantage of first in state and local government. What we’re seeing in the market is around health and human services,” he said. “They’re able to answer a lot of really important questions.”

Cull estimates that local government’s unique relationship with citizens will prompt public employees to use big data differently than their corporate counterparts. They’re even closer to constituents than state and federal employees, so their data applications will be especially unique.

“They [local government] are going to be more focused on things like looking at big data around websites and usage statistics, and how people are using the applications that serve government,” he said.

Users in all sectors of government will require visualization and analytics tools so they can categorize and understand the data. Consequently graphical dashboards and public reporting will increase. This will in turn cause agencies to provide employee training on data usage and data science.

“What big data is about is providing answers to questions," Cull said. "Without the tools to be able to interpret big data, you really just have a bunch of stored data. The idea of, ‘What value can I get out of this data?’ is something the government needs to help its employees understand.”

Cull’s predictions come at the tail end of a year in which the White House acknowledged the rise of big data, and its importance. In March, the Obama administration announced the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, in which six federal departments pledged $200 million to fund data collection and analysis.

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Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.