The Washington Post labeled Barack Obama the “Big Data President” because of his big faith in the power of data. He has notably been embracing the comprehensive use of analyzed information even from his presidential campaign days.
Obama’s strong belief in the importance of big data is evident in the launching of the U.S. government website data.gov, a depository site where the government publishes all the information it gathers as well as any data that is public and unrestricted for national security reasons. In 2012, Obama also invested $200 million in Big Data research and development initiative with a mission to enhance the tools and techniques required for obtaining, organizing and extracting valuable information from the huge volumes of digital data, which aid in resolving some of the country’s most imperative issues.
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Positive impact of big data
Big data, which is currently being used in many areas including security, transportation, education, agriculture and healthcare, is regarded by the US government as a historic driver of progress and with a great potential to help the nation’s growth in a big way. The positive impact of big data used by the US government includes the following:
- Analytical software helps eliminate terrorism and fraudulent activities. The CIA funded Palantir Technologies, a private American software company that makes analytical software designed to extinguish terrorism. The said software can figure out where roadside bombs are located. Palantir Technologies also specializes in curbing cyber fraud by analyzing suspicious transactions.
- Sophisticated software helps alert law enforcers. Law enforcement agencies use automated license plate recognition that has the capability to alert law enforcers if there is anyone in the vicinity with an outstanding warrant. Several police departments also use predictive technologies to anticipate critical areas where crimes may possibly occur.
- Paves the way for better infrastructure investment and shapes the future of travelling. The Department of Transportation utilizes a modern license plate recognition software as well as cameras to assess how people travel by different modes of transportation.
- Enhanced online learning. The massive amount of data available online has enhanced the educational system and increased the learning activities carried out online.
- Agricultural breakthroughs. Big Data has helped the Department of Agriculture in its mission to support the economy through research and development of new technologies for agriculture.
- Healthcare innovations. Government healthcare institutions are actively using big data in their initiatives, such as tracking the spread of illness using social media. This is conducted by the Center for Disease Control and the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), which was launched by the National Institutes of Health in 2012.
The government’s use of big data has raised many concerns and challenges. Nevertheless, with necessary regulation and the right balance in place, big data will deliver massive positive benefits that are far greater than the harms.
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Photo by Christoph Scholz.