Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

McAuliffe: Virginia is getting serious about big data

Virginia has long been a hub for government technology, with so many federal contractors clustered outside of Washington and major military installations in several parts of the state. But now Gov. Terry McAuliffe is pushing for more investments and public-private partnerships focused on big data and analytics, particularly as they pertain to bioscience.

"We have all the tools," McAuliffe told 400-odd attendees on April 23 at THRiVE 2015 – a daylong conference in Chantilly, Va. focused on growing bioscience business and research in the state. "Half of all Internet traffic goes through the commonwealth of Virginia," he said, so the state has both the fiber and the data centers to support truly massive big data projects. 

Thanks to firms in Virginia that have Department of Defense contracts, the state has "very talented people who know how to analyze data," he said. "This is the hottest space going in the country today ...  it's a matter of taking these things and putting them together."

McAuliffe offered few specifics in his speech, but in an interview afterward with GCN, he said the state's next budget will include significant funding for both government and university investments in analytics. 

"It can't happen without the government," he said. "You really need an administration that is willing to drive it ... we've got to break down the silos."

Tony Fung, Virginia's deputy secretary for technology, said the state's universities already "are collaborating as far as their capabilities in developing data scientists, as well as their computing power." The challenge now, he said, is "coalescing all of these different folks ... with bioscience and big data coming together."

McAuliffe said that cybersecurity efforts also will be part of that big data blend. Virginia just launched the nation's first state-level Information Sharing and Analysis Organization – a response to President Barack Obama's February executive order encouraging information sharing. 

"I'd put our cyber capabilities up against any state in America," McAuliffe said, and noted that cybersecurity efforts and bioscience analytics have very similar "protocols to really be able to handle a tremendous amount of large information in a secure environment... [though] in the bio space and the health‑related space, that data is even bigger."

The trick, of course, is to effectively leverage those still-siloed efforts and to get such a wide variety of stakeholders to collaborate effectively. McAuliffe, however, is convinced that both the economic and scientific payoffs warrant the effort. As he told the conference attendees, "if the state does that, it's going to win that brass ring.  And that's going to be a gigantic brass ring."

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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