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How Is the Public Sector Using Big Data?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Big data is important in the corporate world. It enables businesses to make projections, analyze business operations and make data-based decisions.

Big data in government, however, is a relatively new concept. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations are now realizing the benefits of big data and learning to use it to their advantage. The following are a few ways the public sector is using big data.

Saving Money

Since the public sector relies on public funds, saving money is always important. Compiling and analyzing big data offers governments a way to do this. For example, governments can use big data to track fiscal spending within smaller public sector entities. They can then audit these expenditures to identify areas for reduction or improvement.

Fraud prevention provides government entities another way to save money. For example, the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) can use big data to monitor disability claims. By analyzing this data set, the SSA can find inconsistencies and standardize processes. Other organizations like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are finding ways to use big data in forecasting, which allows the administration to predict future rates.

Big data also helps the government fight tax fraud with algorithms to detect inconsistencies and stop tax fraud before it becomes a problem.


Since government entities and other public sector organizations represent the community, transparency — which is crucial for community involvement — was difficult to achieve until public sectors started using big data. When government agencies release data on spending, operations and program performance, they enable communities to become more involved. This promotes transparency, which can build trust and encourage civic participation.

Improved Decision-Making

Another benefit of big data in government is improved decision-making. Compiling and analyzing data allows government officials to look at patterns and inconsistencies in decision-making processes. They can then implement procedures to improve efficiency.

Health and Wellness

Keeping a community healthy is one of the public sector’s primary responsibilities. Before the days of big data, compiling information was time-consuming and tedious. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relies on big data to predict the path of food-borne illnesses or contaminated products. This leads to more efficient recalls, which prevents more consumers from getting sick.

In the health and wellness realm, big data is bringing organizations, the government, academia and other entities together to make better, more-informed decisions, which saves the public sector time and money and improves the lives of community members.

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Five IBM Center for The Business of Government: Examples of How Federal Agencies Use Big Data

Datafloq: 4 Benefits For The Public Sector When Governments Start Using Big Data

Government Technology: How Open Data Is Creating New Opportunities in the Public Sector (Industry Perspective)

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