Too much data as businessman sits on raft in storm at sea

Is big data big trouble for state, local governments?

Although 97 percent of state and local IT professionals expect their data to grow by more than 50 percent over the next two years, more than three-quarters of them say they are just somewhat or not very familiar with the term “big data ”— and only 2 percent have a complete big data strategy, according to a recent report by MeriTalk.

“Agencies still have data silos, and they are just beginning to explore how to effectively analyze this disparate data,” Regina Kunkle, vice president of state and local government for NetApp, underwriter of the report, said in a release.  The report, “The State and Local Big Data Gap,” is based on a survey of 150 state and local government CIOs and IT managers taken in November and December 2012.

Seventy-nine percent of responding agencies said it will be at least three years before they are able to take full advantage of big data, even though they see it improving overall efficiency (57 percent); increasing the speed and accuracy of the decision-making process (54 percent); and providing a greater understanding of citizens’ needs (37 percent).

And although 79 percent said they were just somewhat or not very familiar with the term, they do report having the kind of problems that big data techniques are intended to solve. Respondents estimated they have just 46 percent of the data storage/access; 42 percent of the computational power; and 35 percent of the personnel they need to utilize big data.

One in three respondents has a data set too big to analyze. Twenty-five percent of the average agency’s data is unstructured. And 57 percent said their current enterprise architecture cannot support big data initiatives.

Today, the average state and local agency stores 499 terabytes of data. Only 47 percent are making strategic decisions with their data, although 59 percent are analyzing the data collected. Thirty-nine percent are investing in IT data processing systems; 39 percent investing in improving data security and 37 percent investing in data storage. People, however, are less of a focus, with only 25 percent training their IT professionals to manage and analyze big data and 24 percent educating senior managers on the benefits of big data.

Last August, a report issued by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) found that, while the idea of big data is gaining traction, implementation may not be within reach for some states because of staff training or lack of database management tools.

“Big data is certainly important,” said Carolyn Parnell, co-chair for the NASCIO Enterprise Architecture and Governance Committee and Minnesota’s CIO. “But in these economic times, potential investment in big data technologies, process and discipline is competing for limited budget dollars with other essential initiatives such as legacy modernization, consolidation, deployment of mobile applications, cybersecurity and statewide broadband connectivity,” she told  GCN.

The MeriTalk report has a margin of error of +/- 7.97 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The full study is available at

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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