Big Data is the next big thing

I’m sure you’ve heard the latest buzzword, “big data.” Big data are datasets too large and complex to be analyzed with traditional software, like Medicare claims data, global weather information, or the DNA sequencing of the human genome.  We in government must manage exponentially increasing data, while improving our ability to use and share it. Many interesting federal initiatives are emerging in this area.

Last month, for example, the White House announced a new Communities area for crowdsourcing ideas and initiatives on how best to use federal data. datasets now number over 345,000 and draw over 1.3 million visits a  month. The public creates innovative reporting methods from this data, such as mashups on any number of issues: bills in Congress, historic homes of D.C., finding local resources for HIV/AIDS care, and much more.  Several Datapoloozas and Data Jams are scheduled to develop new, improved ways of analyzing and presenting data to help us better meet our missions.

In March 2012, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched the Big Data Research and Development Initiative. OSTP recognized that that government needs to develop technologies to work with big data, and that the workforce needs to be expanded to develop and use big data technologies.

GSA manages the web presence of government’s most visible big data GSA posts over 83 high-value datasets on, and like other agencies shares federal data with interested citizens while also saving resources through pre-fulfilling potential Federal of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

GSA continues to look for improved approaches for ways to use big data and provide better services to our customers. We need to do that quickly – and securely – while keeping an eye on our bottom line for savings during implementation.

What are the challenges that you see facing federal government CIOs and CTOs as they tackle the big data initiative? How would you solve them?