4 ways big data can save lives and money

Big data can help improve health care and quality of life, reduce crime, and trim the federal budget, public sector IT officials say in a new TechAmerica study.

Big Data and other analytical tools have great potential to make governments more efficient and improve citizens’ lives, particularly in health and public safety sectors, according to a new study released by the TechAmerica Foundation. 

Both federal and state IT officials believe big data analytics can have real and immediate impacts on how governments operate, from helping to predict crime to cutting waste and fraud, according to the survey of nearly 200 public sector IT professionals commissioned by SAP AG, and conducted by pollsters Penn Schoen and Berland.

The survey cites the potential of big data analytics to improve lives and save money, but federal and state governments are actually deriving value from specific projects. For example, big data and text analytics have been attracting the attention of agencies that deal with large amounts of unstructured data, such as NASA’s analysis of airline safety reports and a Homeland Security Department-funded bio-preparedness collective. Newly available data on lightning activity within clouds gives the National Weather Service, NASA and the military better warnings about severe weather.

Predictive analysis is growing as a crime-prevention tool as city police departments such as those in Baltimore and Philadelphia use analytic tools to parse large volumes of data to forecast patterns and prevent crimes. Analytics is also fueling the Air Force’s efforts to improve patient care and support research into preventive medicine and disease management, making it easier for clinicians to comb through data to find meaningful insights.

The responding IT officials identified four key areas where big data has the potential to improve:

Big data used in medicine

1. Saving lives.

According to 87 percent of federal IT officials and 75 percent of state IT officials, the use of real-time big data solutions will save a significant number of lives each year.

They say medical researchers can aggregate information about health care outcomes to reveal patterns that lead to more effective treatments and detection of outbreaks.

Predictive policing

2. Reducing crime.

Seventy-five percent of state IT officials think big data is extremely useful in public safety. 

 For instance, police departments are currently using big data technology to develop predictive models about when and where crimes are likely to occur, allowing them to deploy officers to prevent crimes, helping to reduce the overall crime rate in specific locations.

Control room of Rhode Island State Police
 

3. Improving quality of life.

Real-time big data is helping government improve the quality of citizens’ lives, according to 75 percent of federal IT officials.

For example, by gaining insight into huge volumes of data across agencies, government can provide improved, personalized services to citizens, from filling potholes to speeding up the process at motor vehicle offices. State IT officials said big data can help improve social and welfare services, education and government transparency.

wheelchair
 

4. Saving money.

Federal IT officials say real-time analytics of big data can help reduce the federal budget by at least 10 percent annually, or about $1,200 per citizen, by detecting improper health care payments before they occur, according to the TechAmerica survey.

Yet, despite all the real and potential benefits of big data analytics, federal and state IT officials also cite several barriers to adoption, including privacy concerns, the expense of new tools, lack of clarity about big data’s return on investment, and the time it can take to extract queries from traditional databases in a timely manner.

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