Hadoop and the Government: Do They Go Together?

The use of big data and Hadoop has increased by leaps and bounds in the past few years, especially among businesses.

It’s a pretty sensible strategy for organizations to take, especially considering the numerous benefits and advantages big data can give.

Hadoop, after all, is a platform that helps organizations process massive data sets, and as data becomes more complex, this ability keeps rising in demand. 

While there’s little doubt that Hadoop is a good fit for the private sector, what roles can it play in government functions?

UK Home Office

The government, whether on a local or national level, operates much differently from private businesses, and its own roles vary as well. It’s a question that many policy experts and data scientists have weighed in on, with some believing Hadoop and the government make a great fit.

The discussion surrounding Hadoop being used by government agencies is one that has been going on for several years, but it was recently reignited when it was announced that the UK Home Office will employ Hadoop as a way to centralize its many databases. The Home Office has been busy working to bring on board Hadoop specialists for the single platform initiative.

Of the many uses this plan could lead to, one stated objective is to help the border force control key points by allowing them to cross check large sets of data, looking for potential threats. In many ways, it’s a necessary step they have to take in order to analyze the large amount of information at their disposal.

The move is not without controversy, however. Many civil liberties defenders say the use of Hadoop with government data represents a threat to personal privacy and security. Governments store potentially sensitive information on its citizens, and combining that data into one massive database could pose a problem. These advocates say the biggest worry is that this is all being done without the consent of the people nor has it been taken up by Parliament.

Related Article: Data Delirium: Why and How You Should Embrace Big Data

Weighing Concerns

These are all concerns that need to be taken into consideration as Hadoop moves into the government sphere of influence. The number of use cases continues to grow, so more government agencies will likely look to Hadoop to help them analyze and manage the flood of data they’ll be dealing with. Many of these use cases have applications in businesses and are merely being transferred to some of the functions governments engage in.

For example, using Hadoop helps companies prevent fraud by monitoring activity and catching any suspicious behaviors or actions early on, essentially preventing damage before it can become widespread. If used in this way for government agencies, it can in turn combat fraud and prevent government waste, saving taxpayer money in the long run.

Related Article: More Info, More Problems: Privacy and Security Issues in the Age of Big Data

Hadoop and Social Media

Hadoop is also used by businesses to monitor social media. When companies turn to Hadoop on the cloud, they’re usually looking to discover what people are saying about a product or brand. The government can use this same strategy to find out what citizens think about new policies or the condition of their country or municipality. Sorting through social media data is a massive undertaking, but using Hadoop makes that process manageable.

At the same time, governments may monitor social media to detect terrorist threats. Many terrorist groups use social media networks to communicate, so proper monitoring of these networks help government agencies find those who are involved as well as determine if an attack is about to take place. With advanced scanning technologies and machine learning algorithms, evidence can be within different agencies’ grasp, helping them protect the populace.

Related Article: Hadoop, SQL and ACID, Oh My: Big Data Demystified

With Hadoop starting to be working into government operations, it’s clear that it offers some advantages in dealing with the large amount of data at governments’ disposal. Even so, the concerns over privacy and especially security need to be addressed for people to have confidence that the data is being put to good use. Governments need to demonstrate transparency and seek feedback for citizenry if they intend to use Hadoop for data analysis and storage. Hadoop and the government do go together pretty well, but it will only be a fully beneficial relationship when every concern is answered.

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