Big Data: Reaching the Tipping Point?

Big DataOne of the things about Big Data – collections of large and complex data that require new analysis methods – is that analyzing its results is a complex job. And to tackle it, researchers, app developers, and people who like challenges are unleashing all their creativity. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the explosive growth in data has led to an upswing in college statistics programs and students studying analytics and statistics. This sector is a bright spot of growth in the job market.

However, the promise of big data isn’t discovering the past, it’s looking forward to shape the future. Big data provides predictive analysis about the future, and that’s huge for governments trying to maximize limited resources while delivering necessary services.

Just one example of big data’s predictions: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses big data to feed its FluView website, a weekly tracker of where the flu virus can be found. CDC can get as many as 700,000 reports weekly on patients with flu-like symptoms, so it created a complex flu-tracking system to determine what types of vaccines should be developed and where and in what quantities they should be sent. Because of big data, the government got ahead of this year’s dangerous flu outbreaks.

“It is this ability to collect, measure and analyze data for meaningful insights that is the promise of Big Data technology,” The New York Times recently noted. “Big Data is steadily pushing beyond the Internet industry and scientific research into seemingly foreign fields like the social sciences and the humanities. The new tools of discovery provide a fresh look at culture, much as the microscope gave us a closer look at the subtleties of life and the telescope opened the way to faraway galaxies.”

Or, as Malcolm Gladwell might put it, big data has achieved the tipping point.

We use big data to discover new approaches to emerging problems, and to find better, more cost-effective ways to meet our customers’ needs through websites like Data.gov.

Whether our innovations come from inside our agency or from engaged citizens, the core material comes from analyzing the information buried in big data, gleaning insights, and understanding trends.