MSP Opportunity: Small Governments Need Big Data

A recent blog post on this website explored the benefits of big data analytics to SMB retailers. But there’s another market for big data analytics and cloud-based big data analytics services into which MSPs can tap—providing they know how to wedge their way in. That market is municipal and local government.

This is not to say it’s going to be easy to take big data analytics to small government players. In “Realizing the Promise of Big Data: Implementing Big Data Projects,” a report published by IBM about two years ago, city CIOs and some of their federal and state counterparts were quoted as saying that they fight a constant perception that big data is a passing fad, and that there is backlash from staff who fear it because their understanding of its potential is limited. Much the same remains true.

Overcoming Objections

Some municipal government pushback against big data and big data analytics centers on a belief that it is, for lack of a better description, too big. But while it is true that “big data” typically refers to high volumes of information, “big” is a relative term. It may help prospects if you point out that big data solutions and services can be very effective in collecting and analyzing small amounts of very valuable information—like what comes out of direct social media conversations between constituents and agencies.

It might also be of value to note that government entities, including municipal ones, are creating and being hit with data at an ever-increasing rate as tools to generate that data become available. Without big data analytics, information that could be critical to internal operations or to meeting goals and objectives can slip right through the cracks. This includes non-traditional data sets associated with big data. Think tweets, blogs, wiki entries, videos and audio files. They’re all common data formats in many types of applications utilized internally and by citizens.

Then, there is the power of big data analytics and big data analytics to separate extraneous and/or low-value information from data government entities and agencies—from public safety and law enforcement to the health department – which can be used to glean valuable insights. Without big data analytics, finding these needles in the haystack—if you’ll pardon the cliché—is not always an easy process.

Big Applications

There are number of specific big data analytics applications that can also be proposed to clients in this vertical market—and all can be tied in with big benefits. Getting a handle on constituent sentiment by aggregating and analyzing information from social media and mainstream media sources can give rise to—and help decision-makers prioritize—new service initiatives. It can also help these organizations zero in on where there is discord that needs to be addressed.

In a somewhat similar vein, citizen activities can be tracked and analyzed by revenue collectors and social service agencies to ferret out anomalies that may signal fraud. Organizations can integrate both structured data and unstructured data (again, from social media and similar sources) to validate information or flag potential audits. This allows issues to be handled proactively, and can keep smaller problems from becoming larger ones.

Additionally, on the financial side, the correlation of multiple sources of data through big data analytics makes it easier to formulate financial forecasts and, in turn, emerge from volatile periods less unscathed. Collecting and analyzing public health trends and patient records can help health departments and other affiliated agencies improving patient care and head health threats off at the pass. As an example of the former, a caseworker in a social services agency might utilize predictive big data analytics to determine which solutions may work for a client at a particular time.

Finally, big data analytics can play a role in helping municipal government agencies and entities of all types win the cyber-security game—or at least, stay adequately ahead of it. Data from computer networks can be organized and analyzed to identify hacking and other nefarious cyber-attack schemes and counter them at a faster pace.

It’s just the beginning for big data in little (i.e., municipal) government—and now is a good time to get in position.