If you thought Big Data was about storage... think twice

This time the topic is Big Data and how government IT executives expect to tackle it. Surprisingly (or maybe not) a few of them expect to take a technology-centric approach.IDC defines Big Data as "a new generation of technologies and...


This time the topic is Big Data and how government IT executives expect to tackle it. Surprisingly (or maybe not) a few of them expect to take a technology-centric approach.

IDC defines Big Data as "a new generation of technologies and architectures, designed to economically extract value from very large volumes of a wide variety of data, by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery, and/or analysis".

In our annual Vertical Market and Insights survey, which included 316 government executives in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, we asked how they thought their organisation will be affected by that fast growing amount of - primarily unstructured - data that will requires more storage space and more intelligent solutions. - If you do not have time to read the entire post, click here for a short audio summary.

Bad news first…

The bad news is that approximately fifteen percent of respondents think Big Data will have "limited or no effect" and approximately forty percent think it can be dealt with by "expanding storage capacity". 

Now, the first answer sounds a bit like negationism, because it is unlikely that the information tsunami generated by mobile applications, social media, sensors, open data and simply by the vast amount of electronic exchanges between government and constituents will not affect so many of our respondents, but it is fully fair to assume that some government agencies, for example those dealing with foreign affairs, do not expect major impacts in the short term. 

A bit more disconcerting is the number of respondents that think it's about scaling storage. This posture indicates those respondents are still primarily technical people that have a hard time understanding the full implication in terms of change management that Big Data can generate.

The good news…

The good news is that a little more than thirty percent of our respondents think that Big Data will force their organisation to "re-assess current information management processes". 30+ percent is a healthy share of respondents that understand that Big Data will have an impact on:

  • The IT department, where not only business intelligence solutions will have to become more sophisticated for example to analyse unstructured data and to offer better visualisation, and storage will have to be scaled, but also the competences of data analysts, data architects, database administrators and so forth will be re-shaped, and data architectures will be affected by data models and semantic emerging from the middle-out, rather than from top-down definition of an ontology.

  • The business of government, because Big Data offers to help reveal and predict trends by making associations among data that were previously impossible to discover and relate to one-another, which in turns raises a number of policy questions about who could visualise, edit all of that new precious information that could impact on the overall mission performance and accountability.
Storage will be important no doubt, but maybe by using the elasticity offered by cloud service it will not be such a big headache. Government IT and non-IT executives should rather think of the information management side of the equation.

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