Big Data Plays a Big Role in Joined-Up Government

Kamal Brar, Vice President and General Manager of APAC, HortonworksBengaluru based Hortonworks data management platform and solutions for big data analysis is the ultimate cost-effective and open-source architecture for all types of data.

The creditable Oxford dictionary describes joined-up government as a method of governance characterized by effective communication between different departments and coordination of policies. In 1997, when the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair coined the term, joined-up government,no one had heard of Big Data. In 2002, Gartner predicted in its hype cycle, an indicator of where new and emerging technologies are headed, that e-Government would 'start climbing the slope of enlightenment.' Two decades since the term was first uttered, efforts towards creating joined-up governments have begun to move beyond experimental stages in many countries.

The Government of India took its first steps towards an open and joined-up government with the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP)announced in 2012. Under the NDSAP, the Open Government Data(OGD)Platform India ( launched soon after as a joint initiative of the Governments of India and the US. OGD is intended for use by various government ministries and departments to publish datasets, documents, services, tools and applications collected by them for public use with an aim to ensure transparency and foster innovation. This was followed by Digital India, a massive e-governance project aimed to make available to all citizens, services electronically so that they could be delivered faster and in a transparent manner. Open source and Big Data technologies are at the heart of all these initiatives.

Open Source is the Way Forward
At a time when there is a raging debate over the way data is stored, used, secured and shared, Big Data technologies are the focus of attention. World over consensus is building that free and open
source software(FOSS)are scalable, secure, cost-effective means for government and private sector enterprises. Scalability is particularly vital for those enterprises that deal with petabytes of data. The Government of India too has clearly spelt out that they would prefer FOSS and only opt for proprietary software in instances where there are no feasible alternatives. FOSS eliminates legacy issues as there is access to source code for enterprises and developer communities to keep improving the code and functions. Advances in Big Data technologies means enterprises can manage data assets from the edge to the cloud and on-premises, regardless whether the data is at rest or in motion. Data in motion aid real-time analytics enabling government departments to improve their service delivery, reduce grievances, ensure greater transparency and accountability with quick turnaround.

World over consensus is building that free and open source software (FOSS) are scalable, secure,cost-effective means for government and private sector enterprises.

Barriers to better use of Big Data
Recently, various Government of India departments have announced usage of data analytics using Aadhaar to plug leakage of subsidies to increasing income tax collections. As more departments begin to leverage Big Data and analytics, they need to be aware of these challenges:

. Security- Government departments sit on a huge amount of data. This data can be mishandled for personal gains or for various other reasons which will ultimately impact the ordinary citizen. Cybersecurity threats are increasing day by day, so the question they need to ask themselves ‘are we well-equipped to handle such an enormous amount of personal data?’

. Scalability – Infrastructure upgrades are critical to ensure that they can analyse the flood of data they are generating daily without hiccups. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning makes it possible to track the changing needs, re-allocation of resources and expose chinks in hardware and software in a pre-emptive manner.

. Capacity building– This is a crucial piece - If the government staff are not proficient in handling data, it not only poses security risks but can also jeopardize the entire mission. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has started organizing workshops to train people on how to use data better. They can complement these efforts by roping in Big Data technology companies. Training is also important in view of the impending data protection regime being mulled by the Indian Government.

After all, relevant insights achieved through data analytics will improve governance. Above all it is important to involve the most important stakeholder- the citizen. To drive citizens to use online channels, government departments need to focus on the customer experience and what the citizen expects to get out of the interaction, understanding that they may have questions or scenarios during the process. Then they can apply digital technologies such as interactive online help, online chat, data analytics and social platforms, available across a range of devices, to enable truly workable self-service interactions.