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Big Data still a big challenge for government IT

Big Data could be a massive headache or a huge opportunity for government agencies, if they can figure out how to handle it. Not a fan of Big Government? Well this will shock you: Government agencies will add a petabyte—that’s equal to one quadrillion bytes, or 1,024 terabytes —over the next two years, according to a MeriTalk survey of 151 Federal government CIOs and IT managers. To put that in perspective, one petabyte of data is equal to 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text. Meanwhile, government agencies are struggling to reap the benefits of Big Data as information piles up, lacking the data storage and access, computational power, and personnel, the survey indicated.

The report, titled "The Big Data Gap," found that as agencies look to leverage big data, the technology and applications needed to successfully leverage big data are still emerging. Sixty percent of civilian agencies and 42 percent of Department of Defense/intelligence agencies say they are just now learning about big data and how it can work for their agency. Federal IT professionals say improving overall agency efficiency is the top advantage of big data (59 percent) followed by improving speed and accuracy of decisions (51 percent) and the ability to forecast (30 percent).

Whether it is an opportunity or a challenge, data continues to grow: 87 percent of IT professionals say their stored data has grown in the last two years, and 96 percent expect their data to grow in the next two years (by an average of 64 percent). Agencies reported, on average, it would take them at least 3 years to take full advantage of big data. In fact, agencies are doing very little with their data, according to survey results. Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they are making strategic decisions with the data, and just 28 percent collaborate with other agencies to analyze shared data.

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