Databricks Taps Splunk Leader to Help Bring AI to Government

Kevin Davis, whose 25-year career includes time working with the public sector at both Splunk and Oracle, will now join Databricks as a vice president as the company looks to bring data analytics and AI to government.

by / February 20, 2019
Databricks

Databricks, a data analytics and AI platform, has hired an alumnus of tech giants Splunk and Oracle to lead its public-sector work.

Kevin Davis, who has more than 25 years of experience under his belt, will be Databricks’ new vice president of public sector. Davis comes off a four-year stint at Splunk, where he helped create the public-sector division, and nine years at Oracle working with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The open source company, founded in 2013 and based in San Francisco, emphasized its federal work in the press release, but emphasized that its product can be useful for state and local government functions like urban planning and transportation as well.

AI, which Databricks has worked into its platform, is an overlay technology with an essentially endless list of possible applications. Through self-improving algorithms, governments can automate certain kinds of analysis that used to take an impractically huge amount of resources and time. One big area technologists have been working to apply AI has been in prediction — that is, if a learning algorithm is “fed” massive amounts of data, it can begin to recognize patterns in the data and then use those lessons on contemporary data to estimate when or where a certain thing will happen.

In government work, that could mean identifying which parts of a city are most likely to experience criminal activity during certain times of day, or finding red flags in the data of welfare beneficiaries that could mean fraud. It could mean optimizing the routes that buses or garbage collectors should take to save time and fuel, or it could mean keeping a closer eye on cyberattacks.

Of course, AI can only use the data it’s given, and if biased or inaccurate data is put in, it will produce biased or inaccurate results. That’s why activists and nonprofit organizations have sounded the alarm about AI algorithms that can create huge personal impacts for vulnerable people — especially in areas like predictive policing or bail risk assessments.

“Databricks is a true leader in the data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning spaces,” Davis said in a statement. “This rapidly growing team has huge potential, and I’m thrilled to be joining at both such an exciting stage in the company’s evolution as well as a pivotal period for the industry. The strides made by Databricks within the public sector and the rate at which federal agencies are moving to the cloud are monumental. The mission of the government has always been to ensure security for the people, and I look forward to helping them achieve that mission with Databricks’ Unified Analytics Platform.”