In recent years, the use of big data in government has increased despite growing concerns about cybersecurity. According to Josh Helms, a fellow with the IBM Center for The Business of Government, a growing number of agencies have had success in adopting big data to perform tasks and better serve the populace. For example, the Food and Drug Administration is using big data to analyze and study patterns in foodborne illness; this database helps the FDA respond more quickly when issuing recalls for contaminated foods. With the uptick in government use of big data, now more than ever it is important to ensure interoperability across data sources, organizations and domains.
At the beginning of April, the National Institute of Standards and Technology asked for feedback on their preliminary ideas for a framework that would structure definitions for consolidating and organizing big data. Their NIST big data interoperability framework strives to define data in terms of usability, portability, analytics and governance, all while setting guidelines for the production, storage, analysis and security of complex sets of data. According to the report, its goal is to enhance communication among big data producers and consumers by clarifying concepts and further explaining it.
“One of NIST’s big data goals was to develop a reference architecture that is vendor-neutral and technology- and infrastructure-agnostic, to enable data scientists to perform analytics processing for their given data sources without worrying about the underlying computing environment,” said NIST’s digital data advisor Wo Chang, reported FCW.
Interoperability as a value-creator
So why is interoperability of big data so important? According to the Center for Technology in Government, interoperability creates value for the public through opportunities to share information and data. For instance, fast, easy transfer of information could facilitate government response to emergencies and could increase efficiency in other public services as well. In order for citizens’ needs to be met and government to run smoothly, interoperability is key. It is to this end that the NIST hopes to develop their framework of definitions so that agencies can begin to work together to develop information sharing strategies for the future.
According to Chang, the organization hopes that this framework will become a global standard. Chang speculated that data scientists could use the framework as a guidance tool so that they could remain compliant within their respective industries.