Federal big data initiatives make data management paramount concern

Effective data management will be a critical concern as the United States federal government ramps up its exploration of big data. While information-driven initiatives have the potential to transform a variety of civil and infrastructure projects, as well as contribute to a meaningful cybersecurity plan, a lack of data oversight could make these projects ineffective and put people at risk. 

Federal agencies have already put some big data initiatives in motion, while other industry analysts tout the potential benefits of information analysis. Recent research found that organizations including the Department of Homeland Security and the Government Accountability Office think that big data tools can help them combat cyberthreats on a country-wide scale, according to InformationWeek. Efforts to combat climate change, establish "smart" utilities and improve national healthcare can also capitalize on the insights big data provides.

However, data management, already a thorn in the side of many federal agencies, will become more difficult as data storage demands skyrocket. The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, a project to close 40 percent of federal data centers – saving $5 billion by 2015 in the process – may be losing steam amid cost concerns and facilities closures that don't align with best practices, according to FCW. Out of the more than 7,000 government data centers, only 640 have been shut down. Although 470 are slated to shut down by September 2014, 2,400 would have to close within the next year and a half to reach the stated goal of 40 percent.

The government's struggles are a reminder that data management cannot take a backseat to cost or facilities considerations.