FAA data

FAA Shark Tank challenge promotes data awareness

Like many large agencies,  the Federal Aviation faces challenges in managing its data environment.  Hoping to get some insights from the people who work with that data, the FAA is holding a  Data Awareness Week from Dec. 4-Dec. 8 to draw attention to the agency’s enterprise information management (EIM) initiative and promote the use of its cloud services and big data platform.

The week kicks off with a ThoughtLab event on Dec. 4 that will bring in speakers from the Census Bureau, Election Assistance Commission and the Department of Justice to talk about how they used data and information management to rethink their current business practices.  The learning continues with an open house on Dec. 6, where FAA employees and contractors can familiarize themselves with the various EIM components and the suite of currently available technologies.

On Dec. 8, a Shark Tank Data Challenge will give FAA employees a chance to pitch business ideas that improve their operations if certain external data sources or agency information is made available.  The winner will get support from the agency’s chief data officer to make a business case and complete the data acquisition process.

Pitches can focus on ways to improve work performance through new sources of information or ways data can to improve business processes, collaboration or decision-making.

The judges for the competition will include representatives from the Air Traffic Organization and the NextGen, Aviation Safety, communications and finance offices.

“We want to have a broad perspective of the various aspects of the FAA’s mission, which can help us to evaluate the pitches that deal with different parts of our agency,” FAA Chief Data Officer Natesh Manikoth told GCN.  “Clearly, there will be a winner in the competition, but with all of the ideas that have merit, we will be pursuing them throughout the year.”

FAA employees are encouraged to submit their entries through the agency’s internal IdeaHub platform by the Dec. 6 deadline.  Manikoth said he has already received 16 entries dealing with a wide range of data topics.

The Shark Tank Data Challenge was designed to promote employees to think differently about the FAA’s EIM efforts.

“We needed a fun way to discuss ideas and to make people aware of the creative ways that folks are using data throughout the agency,” Manikoth said.  “Through the competition, people can pitch ideas, talk about the factors needed to succeed and make it a reality pretty quickly so we can create a large mission impact in a short period of time.”

Data Awareness Week will also highlight the FAA's cloud-based big data platform that is expected to go into full production next year. The agency is working with CSRA and Amazon Web Services to access data in previously untapped information silos to improve safety and reduce delays. Work is currently being done to develop and test the platform.

“We need to use the cloud to do some of the big data stuff that we want to do,” Manikoth said.  “It would be difficult to build the physical infrastructure without the cloud to accomplish some of our goals.” 

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.

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