Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Big Data for Government

GovLoop sponsored a series of speakers Big Data for Government at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC on March 24.  They handed out copies of their resource – The Big Data Playbook for Government
They promoted the presentation:
For years government has been talking about how data can transform an agency. How data can make agencies more efficient and effective and inform better decision-making.

You may know the power of data, but do you know how to actually use it? We aren’t talking about excel spreadsheets; we're talking about BIG DATA (exabytes of it!).

Data represents a remarkable opportunity for government. As public sector professionals, your mission is to learn how to capitalize on your high value and authoritative data. You are responsible to learn what skills, tools and IT you need to transform your agency with data.

You’ll hear from government leaders on how to break down big data into manageable components and how to make it a reality at your agency. You'll learn:
  • From successful big data implementers who will talk about how they brought big data to their agency in a cost effective way.
  • How to identify which programs should be selected for a big data initiative.
  • To what skills are necessary for a big data workforce.
  • How to prioritize your big data initiatives.


Lynn Overman, Deputy Chief Data Officer, US Dept. of Commerce

Data is a big deal at Commerce Department:
  • Census data – collecting data since 1790!
  • Patent & Trademark Office
  • NOAA – from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun!

The Census Bureau has obligation (Constitutionally mandated) to collect data on every household, city and town.  There is no motivation for the private sector to do that.
The Federal government mission is amazing!  We protect our people both at home and abroad.

How do we adjust to the changing world of data?
Good government means that we avoid fraud, waste and abuse.

What can Government do?
  • Build a team – a broad team – across the organization, including all stakeholders
  • Think about your data – do you have all the data you need to tackle the challenge?  Reach out to other agencies if needed.
  • Have a product manager – think about your customers – the public and your internal data customers.  Market the data in a useful/usable format.
  • Have fun – this is a creative and exciting area for your agency.  Don’t work the team to death.  Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasmWinston Churchill
Innovations in managing data

Medicare fraud abounds – but now we are using systems that allow for real-time analytics that flag fraud issues.  As an attorney in Dade County, Florida, Ms. Overman worked on a few fraud cases.  There was at least a five-year backlog because of the research.  New database tools allow them to flag a patient at multiple locations

Human trafficking is a despicable crime.  In the past, law enforcement has had to review websites manually to look for signs of human trafficking.  They have teamed up with DARPA to find ways to crawl the dark web more effectively.

Resources for federal agencies:

When answering questions, Ms. Overman mentioned the USDigital Service, part of the Office of Management and Budget -  (It isn’t the same as the UK Digital Office that is a Cabinet level office there.)
GSA has a team available to assist agencies with managing their data the 18F group

There were two panels of presenters from several data management companies. 

Kevin Morgan spoke on building the data team.  He encourages that agencies build a tiger team with experts from across the agency.  That way you’ll be able to work through the process – including the acquisitions process.  If an agency has a critical data management need, a tiger team can be outside the regular acquisitions process to help streamline the solution for the agency.

Anthony Fung, Deputy Secretary for Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia

Mr. Fung talked about the work that his office has undertaken to their goal for big data.

Empower all Virginia’s state agencies to make more informed, data-driven decisions to achieve mission goals through the growth of people, big data/enterprise technology, and advanced analytic methodologies across the Commonwealth.

More on Mr. Fung’s talk can be found at


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