One of the latest buzz phrases and trends in recent year has been “Big Data.” What it means depends upon the context, but it is increasingly being tied to how communities. Learning how to leverage big data is something that will continue to challenge government professionals, as organizations will be able to increasingly use big data for performance measurement, accountability, evaluation, and other practices.
Big data and analytics are a real opportunity, but often-times local governments especially can be behind the eight ball when it comes to information technology, typically due to budget constraints. From being involved with research and data collection on a daily basis, local governments have access to an increasing amount of big data and analytics. The way communities are able to leverage big data for policy making is going to continue to increase for state and local governments in the future. I would encourage you to read a recent article by Governing magazine that highlights some of its limitations for community engagement and policy making. The crux of the story is “can we trust the data?” For community engagement professionals seeking input and collecting data on citizens that is a question that must be answered before we begin shaping policy and making recommendations. Take a few minutes (or maybe 20-30) to read about how knowing the limitations of technology is imperative before relying on it too much for making the world a better place. The push to get have government to produce more “Big Data” is only get to stronger as some argue persuasively. The concerns surrounding it will be long, including privacy, quality of data, which is even before you get to implementation. So next time you read about how government is using big data be thoughtful in your analysis.