Posted by: Joyce T | 3 April 2012

Why Big Data IS a Big Deal to Me

Because I am talking so much about Big Data in my day job, I find it is on my mind a lot.  I’m thinking about a lot of different angles that I’ll touch upon in this post and then expand upon in more depth over time. Which more or less means I’m all over the map here and to some degree thinking out loud.

On 29 March, the Obama Administration announced a “Big Data Research and Development Initiative”, designed to improve the government’s “ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data.”  At the launch, six Federal departments and agencies committed $200 million in various programs to support the development of Big Data tools and techniques. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is driving the initiative in conjunction with several Federal departments and agencies.  The announcement today is intended to be a first wave of agency commitments, so in the words of the Carpenters, we’ve only just begun.

One of the great things about this announcement is it gives $200 million of credibility to a concept that some skeptics still doubt is more than a marketing scheme. In essence the federal government is taking a stake in the future of Big Data and the opportunities it offers. On the vendor side, we certainly see the value of this technology and its potential.  Public sector will be a great consumer of Big Data techniques and technologies, and this is probably the first of many projects we’ll see.

As a marketer, I get swept up in the excitement of Big Data. I’m a forward thinker (an NT for you Myers Briggs enthusiasts) and I am always excited by possibilities and potentialities.  However, I attended the RSA Conference back in March, and I got some good exposure to the possibilities and potentialities of the dark side of Big Data too.  The most obvious danger of Big Data for most folks is what it could do to our already fragile privacy.  Pair that with the fact that any tool, including those of Big Data can be bent to nefarious purposes, and sobering concerns arise.  Happily, the InfoSec community and government agencies like Defense are also embracing Big Data, in order to invent new ways to protect and defend both our privacy and us.  I’ll stop there today, but I have a lot more to say about this issue over time.

Then there’s the economy. And small things like the future of America. As the mother of a young child, I worry about these things quite a bit. I want my son to be employable in a competitive marketplace when he becomes an adult. I want him to get the right education and training, and I also know that many if not most of the jobs that will be available to him probably haven’t been invented yet.  So I think not only about his education, but also about our national investments in research for science, technology and the future overall.  Big Data is very important to me in this respect, because I think it highlights one path we should take.  We need to train Data Scientists now, so there is a whole emerging job market blossoming all around me as I write this. But longer term, the areas those data scientists are focusing on now will also create the science and technology areas of the future that will open up many more jobs.  Knowing that government has begun to fund research in those areas now means strategic positioning for the future, and I appreciate that deeply when wearing my Concerned Mom hat. Of course I have a lot more to say on this too.  Stay tuned.  I’m still working my way around these topics.  Talk to me if you feel moved to respond.  I’d appreciate hearing from you.

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Responses

  1. Nice post on Big Data! Look forward to reading some more of your views. Still unsure where we stand, data is power after all. The UK govt are opening up and pushing the concept of big data: http://data.gov.uk/


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