TechAmerica Foundation Big Data Commission Releases Its Highly Anticipated Report

Oct 03, 2012

Today, the TechAmerica Foundation released its much-anticipated final report “Demystifying Big Data: A Practical Guide To Transforming The Business of Government,” which gives the federal government a comprehensive roadmap to using “Big Data” to better serve citizens.

As you may recall, the TechAmerica Foundation Big Data Commission was formed in May 2012 with the goal of demystifying the term “Big Data” by promoting the understanding of the velocity, variety and complexity of data. The organization also defined the key business outcomes and use cases that Big Data will serve.

It’s been an honor to serve on the TechAmerica Big Data Commission as a Commissioner with Darren House, a Data Center Technologist at GTSI, as my deputy.  For the past four months, we collaborated with federal customers, members of academia, as well as several industry experts, on this important initiative.

This comprehensive and first-of-its-kind report explains the underlying technology in simple terms, and identifies best practices and lessons learned from early efforts.  The report also offers a set of policy recommendations and practical steps agencies can take to get started on Big Data initiatives.

As you can imagine, plenty of hard work and cross-functional collaboration went into creating this special report.  The Commission based its findings on the practical experiences of those government leaders who have established early successes in leveraging Big Data, as well as the academics and industry leaders who have supported them.

To give you a preview of what’s in the report, below are some of the key findings and recommendations from the Commission.

  • Big Data Analytics not only helps customers save money, but directly affects their mission effectiveness including improved decision-making ability and operational intelligence, increased transparency and elimination of waste, fraud and abuse.
  • To make data a strategic asset that can be used to better achieve mission outcomes, data should be included in the strategic planning, enterprise architecture, and human capital of each agency.
  • A suitable technology infrastructure is a key prerequisite for embarking on a successful Big Data strategy. Developments in new underpinning information and analytics technologies, like Hadoop, NoSQL and MapReduce Frameworks, stream analytics, massive parallel processing (MPP), in-memory databases, column stores and data warehouses have been successfully proven in the early Big Data Analytics solution deployments across several government agencies. Software by itself is not sufficient – it will also require rethinking and realignment of deployment IT infrastructures as well. Agencies looking to leverage Big Data solutions will have to evolve their IT infrastructures including massively scalable storage and network infrastructure designs, as well as considerations for data protection, data sharing, data reuse, ongoing analysis, compliance, security/privacy issues, data retention and availability.
  • The government should carefully evaluate Big Data policy issues with a view toward removing the unnecessary obstacles and driving specific actions to accelerate the use of government’s data assets.

The report also presents ten Big Data case studies and use cases from public sector agencies like NARA, NASA, NOAA, IRS and others detailing the business challenges, how Big Data helped achieve business outcomes.

Full text of these case studies will also be posted on the TechAmerica website, where public sector customers can see the most innovative ways that their fellow users have leveraged Big Data.  In speaking with government customers during the Commission, it was clear that, while the impact of Big Data will be transformational, the path to effectively harnessing it does not require the agencies to start from scratch with greenfield investments. It is also clear that the government can build iteratively on the capabilities and technologies it already has in place.

The full Commission report can be found here.  As always, please feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter at@GTSI_Architect.