Issue of the Week: What’s the future of big data? Insights from NIST’s Peter Mell

Welcome to GovLoop InsightsIssue of the Week with Chris Dorobek where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

A busy week on the DorobekINSIDER

  • We talked about how government and innovation don’t always fit. But in Denmark they are making it work with MindLab — a fascinating public-private partnership. What is is and how does it work? We’ll talked to one of the creators.
  • Government is really one of the places where innovation shines. Especially when budgets are tight and the government is forced to think differently. We talked with Jay Nath the Chief Innovation Officer for San Francisco. He led the charge on a recent graphic design challenge for their new transportation logo.
  • We talked maps — yes, really! People say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well, maps are ways of making sense of data — perhaps the best example is if you needed to go to a hospital. If you had a list of addresses, it doesn’t mean that much. But put that data on a map and well, it’s magic. We talked to the Geographic information officer for the FCC about what maps mean.
  • Making leadership count at your agency. We got tips from Tom Fox with the Partnership for Public Service. Like making sure you are open and transparent like being a star on a reality show.

But our issue of the week: looks at the myths and challenges surrounding big data. Peter Mell is a Computer Scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He was the one that actually defined the cloud computing term. So we figured who better to help us pin down what exactly big data is.

Weekend reads

  • The Ideas Report – It’s the Atlantic’s annual guide to mini innovations that could change the world.
  • The New York Time’s Tyler Cohen writes, A lack of trust is driving austerity on government jobs. “Since Mr. Obama took office, 780,000 private sector jobs have been created, while the number of public sector jobs has fallen by about 600,000, mostly at the state and local level. A quick look might suggest that we need only to bolster the number of public sector jobs to have a healthier economy, but there is a deeper way to think about the problem. State and local governments are controlled by politicians and, indirectly, by voters. And for better or worse, those voters have lost faith in the social returns of these jobs and our ability to afford them. The voters have responded by looking to cut expenses, and they’ve chosen state and local government employment as a target…The reason that we aren’t getting more expansionary macro policy is fundamental: a lack of trust. It’s not an easy problem to fix, but the place to start is by recognizing it.
  • Tim Wu in The New York Times on computers and free speech Wu highlights an interesting legal debate over the “free speech” of computer programs like Google’s search algorithms or Facebook’s friend finders. “Is there a compelling argument that computerized decisions should be considered speech? As a matter of legal logic, there is some similarity among Google, Ann Landers, Socrates and other providers of answers,” he writes, but, “The First Amendment has wandered far from its purposes when it is recruited to protect commercial automatons from regulatory scrutiny.” He traces the legal argument’s origins in a 2003 Google civil suit and worries that protecting computer speech could become a powerful anti-regulatory tool that would hurt consumers.

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