Big Data in the Public Sector – Challenges and Importance

Big data has recently gained widespread popularity. Data is transforming the way businesses operate today. A large amount of data, when combined with technological advancements, can potentially generate unique insights. Businesses are now well aware of this benefit now. Big data analytics has proved its worth in various sectors of businesses.

Government institutions and public sector organizations have always been equipped with a vast amount of data. Thus there are plenty of opportunities to apply big data technologies however public sector organizations must overcome certain challenges.

Big Data in Public Sector- Challenges

big data
  • One of the major shifts needed from the point of view is to treat data as an asset. Organizations would not be able to enjoy the benefits of their data inventory unless they acknowledge that the data will produce substantial value.
  • One of several reasons why data analytics has not been part of the decision-making process for public sector entities is the lack of skilled analytical talent. It has been a challenge for organizations to hire a talent that would be able to deliver results with accountability. Additionally, organizations are facing difficulties in retaining the existing analytics workforce amid a lack of satisfactory compensation.
  • Private sector organizations bridge the talent gap by outsourcing analytics tasks. But due to confidentiality concerns public sector data cannot be outsourced to analytics firms.
  • Data in public sector organizations is trapped in silos and is fragmented. Also, the lack of standardization makes big data management difficult while creating bottlenecks to separate the data from the noise.
  • Another big hurdle organizations face is to boost adoption of the data analytics approach as a part of their culture. By nature, individuals feel resistance to changes. Change often feels uncomfortable and creates chaos initially. Businesses can overcome this challenge by creating a program that provides proper training while awarding those who willingly accept the change.
  • Public sector organizations perform varied tasks in an equally wide spectrum of fields. Managing diverse resources as well as infrastructure requires large funds. Thus the availability of funds poses as another challenge.
  • Furthermore, there are numerous public administration and regulatory organization making it difficult to find common grounds for the implementation of big data analytics. Additionally, uncertainty still prevails regarding how exactly big data analytics will add value to public sector organization and how to achieve the acceptable regulatory framework.
  • Lack of innovative approach in the public sector has stagnated the growth of big data analytics culture in the public sector. The one-size-fits-all approach eventually creates resistance across the organization for the acceptance of new initiatives.

Besides the challenges, big data solutions have great potential to create value for the public sector.

Big Data in Public Sector- The Potential

The OECD working paper “A data-driven public sector: Enabling the strategic use of data for productive, inclusive and trustworthy governance” (van Ooijen, Ubaldi and Welby, 2019[3]) presented the idea of the government data value cycle.

The cycle helps monitor the journey from the handling of data (raw, isolated and unstructured datasets) to the recognition and understanding of the relationship between these data, resulting in information and knowledge. The outcome of this information is the basis for policy and decision-making by governments.  (Ubaldi, 2013[4]).

government data value cycle of big data

The cycle starts with collecting and generating data. The data can be collected from various sources. The data collected must be relevant and good quality in order to draw the appropriate conclusion. The cycle gradually proceeds to the last stage i.e., using and reusing of data that offers generates recognizable public value. The cycle ultimately indicates that how organizations can effectively create value out of data.

Big Data in Public Sector- Importance

Big data analytics processes can help public sector entities gain actionable insights, and deliver results in a short period of time. Furthermore, data enables these entities to predict the next step in the decision making processes.


healthcare big data

Efficient healthcare is the need of the hour. Big data in healthcare will enable the government, as well as other public sector organizations, to build the desired structure. The US health care system is funded by the government, which allows millions of people to have access to various healthcare services. Thus, the record of each person contributes to the repository of data. In addition, modern technologies can help government entities collect real-time data to make informed decisions. The data can be analysed to assess the precise needs of patients and to provide patients with the best available healthcare services.

Education System

big data in education

The education system is another prominent issue for governments in almost every region. Governments can utilize data from the education sector to gain deeper insights into the system. Data from education sector consists of information such as students’ examination details, their personal details, admission preferences etc. Such information can provide unique insights in an entire education system. In addition, big data solutions will help government agencies to gain more awareness into public education needs.

Land Administration

big data in land administration

Governments can utilize high-resolution images and other data to improve survey methods as well as land registration processes. The analytics can also make whole processes much faster. Moreover, the verification process may also get automated reducing the overall time required to complete the registration. Also, the process essentially strengthens tax collection rounds.

Food Security

big data in food service

Keeping a tab on the agriculture sector is difficult for governments, as the crop fields are spread across the country. Additionally, there are several other variables related to agriculture that need regular monitoring. Big data applications enable an analysis of real-time satellite data to formulate appropriate strategies.

Big Data Analytics and Decision Making Process

Big data in the government sector still needs to find its wide acceptance. Big data analytics techniques are yet to be used for decision-making processes. If we consider statistics, the public sector is much farther from accepting data analytics as compared to sectors such as telecommunications and finance, etc. However, analytics has every potential to bring in a revolutionary change in how public sector entities make their decisions.

Also, current trends suggest that in future analytics will become an inseparable part of the decision-making process and many entities will find themselves implementing those techniques.

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