Big Data Needs Structure, Experts Say

(Image: Shutterstock)

(Image: Shutterstock)

Big data can be analyzed more efficiently when it’s structured properly, according to government experts.

Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel, vice director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said that the public and private sector need to apply structure to big data so that analysts can understand what they’re looking at.

“We’re used to talking about big data,” Zabel said. “It takes some extra analysis to figure out what is this data coming at you and what does is mean.”

DISA attempts to make big data more coherent by connecting disparate and different networks together and running Internet access points.

The cloud presents more opportunities to interconnect more data sets than before, according to Steve Rice, assistant administrator for the Office of Information Technology and chief information officer for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“How can data sets be harmonized with the information we have?” was one question that Rice is tackling at the TSA.

Rice said that the TSA needs information about passengers before they enter the airport to interconnect with security information that’s collected inside the airport to make everyone’s screening experience quicker.

The TSA is working on starting a curb-to-gate screening process, where travelers will constantly follow security processes from the minute they arrive at the airport to the minute they board the plane. This will make going through security more efficient, according to Rice.

The TSA depends on intelligence agencies and industry partners, an open dialogue to articulate risk, and the collision of operational technology and information technology to mitigate and continue to improve the airport screening process, according to Rice.

The public sector is working on hiring 6,000 data analysts, according to David Blankenhorn, chief technology officer of DLT Solutions. He agreed with Zabel that structuring big data will help those analysts do their jobs.

Blankenhorn said that leveraging shared services and creating transparency between agencies will also help.

Blankenhorn told schools and universities to continue updating their STEM curriculums to suit the government’s hiring needs.

“Start teaching coders what it means to write secure code, to write clean code,” Blankenhorn said.

Blankenhorn also said that schools need to integrate data analysis into their STEM programs in order to train the employees that the government is lacking.

“It is so difficult to find the talent in these mission spaces to support us,” Blankenhorn said.

Morgan Lynch
About Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.
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