Can Big Data Improve Lives?

California's geographic information officer says he's certain it can.

by / May 14, 2014

On May 13, Techwire held the Data Analytics conference in downtown Sacramento, Calif., at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, bringing together the state's public-sector workers and decision-makers to discuss how business intelligence can improve their processes.

Panel speakers included Shell Culp, the chief deputy director of California's Office of Systems Integration, and Scott Gregory, California's geographic information officer. Both spoke to Government Technology privately after the event about data's potential in the government workplace.

According to Gregory, data analysis can expand GIS service delivery.

"I don't really see big data changing GIS, so to speak; what I see is this idea of big data driving more interesting and relevant data outside of the traditional context that we've come to know in GIS," he said.

He posed scenarios like using spatial data to detect fraud in Medicare, and a fusion between law enforcement and alcohol beverage control licensing.

Gregory was confident that big data could improve lives.

"Things that are tangible, things that can change people's lives, things that can increase efficiency, cost savings and make government run better, that's really the hope of big data," he said.

California's made great strides in big data, like the MyCalPERS system that manages CalPERS' $290 billion account portfolio. State employees use data intelligence to predict trends and gain better insight into retirees' needs.

That's one of a few isolated pockets of the state's big data applications, according to Shell Culp, the chief deputy director of California's Office of Systems Integration. California's approaching data innovation in a piecemeal fashion. Administrators need to work much harder to get there en masse.

"Having said that, I don't know that anybody has a barometer on that," she said, "so this is all very anecdotal, but my anecdotal evidence is that there's a lot of opportunity there for California to be doing a lot more."

Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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