big data government careersFrom Michael Dell to Forrester to the International Institute for Analytics, leaders across all industries predict big data analytics will be the next trillion-dollar market to significantly impact businesses of all kinds. The big data analytics field, which is defined as the “collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside an organization that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis,” is growing at a rapid pace (Forbes). As a result, leaders in every sector – from government agencies to private organizations – are quickly ramping up opportunities to leverage big data and introducing more career opportunities in the process.

Today, experts estimate over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created on a daily basis; 90 percent of that data has been created in the past two years alone. With this vast amount of data to interpret, data analysts enrolled in programs dedicated to big data analytics degrees are in high demand. In fact, Forbes predicts “in the U.S. alone there will be 181,000 deep analytics roles in 2018 and 5 times that many positions requiring related skills in data management and interpretation.”

While all industries are poised to reap the benefits of big data analytics, and many are proactively mining data (in fact, “70 percent of large organizations already purchase external data and 100 percent will do so by 2019) the government is uniquely positioned to leverage big data in an even bigger way. The Obama Administration recently introduced the Big Data Research and Development Initiative, a $200 million program that brings together six federal departments and agencies to identify opportunities to better leverage big data and address key issues impacting today’s constituents.

Today, the majority of government agencies use big data to their advantage, from reducing costs to improving security. Examples of how the government can use big data to improve our daily lives are outlined below.

  • Health Care Enhancements: In the report, The ‘big data’ revolution in healthcare. Accelerating value and innovation, McKinsey & Company explains that big data and its impact on the health care field are at a pivotal point with the increased access to digitized medical records. While the impact of big data in health care has yet to be fully realized, experts predict big data analytics will help address problems in healthcare quality and spending. For example researchers are now able to “mine the data to see what treatments are most effective for particular conditions, identify patterns related to drug side effects or hospital readmissions, and gain other important information that can help patients and reduce costs” (McKinsey & Company). 

Significantly contributing to the impact of big data and health care enhancements is the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including over $550 million allocated for the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program—a program that focuses on increasing the exchange of health information across the United States.

  • Improve Disaster Responses: From the terrible Nepalese earthquake in 2015 to Hurricane Sandy, every major disaster has two common, urgent needs: identifying how to quickly deliver aid and connecting people with their loved ones. With big data’s ability to gather information from multiple sources at a rapid rate, government and business leaders are finding better ways to address these two common pain points.

According to Forbes, “the massive amounts of data that we are generating with mobile phones, satellites and social media can all play a part in providing clues to the best way to respond to a situation.” For example, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a group of high school students created an app that featured a map of where gas was available in the New York and New Jersey region.

  • Reduce Costs & Operational Expenses: Big data has the potential to not only address serious issues (i.e. delivering relief to disaster impacted areas), but also make government more efficient. For example, government agencies can use big data to “find incorrect invoices or payments that may have been made erroneously. Taking it a step further, they can use root-cause analysis to determine what caused those errors and correct flaws in the system” (Information Week).

Future big data leaders interested in the career opportunities big data provides should seek a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based education. These specific curriculums teach students to manipulate and analyze big data sets in real time and work alongside faculty and staff on research projects to solve industry challenges. This preparation will enable future leaders to fill the growing demand in big data and make a meaningful impact on tomorrow’s challenges.

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