Almost every sector has recognized the vital role of big data in its development. It is referred to as ‘the oil of the 21st century’, ‘the material in which economies, societies, and democracies are continually built upon’. The Nigerian government has been for long, trying to improve the economy, fight corruption and increase the general welfare of its citizens. Perhaps it is time we introduce a tool into the mix of solutions: Big data analytics.
WHAT IS BIG DATA?
Big data can be referred to as a large volume of data that cannot be processed by traditional spreadsheets, databases, and software techniques such as MS Excel. These data run into petabytes (1,024 terabytes) and are sometimes collected from multiple sources. Big data analytics means the examination and investigation of these large amounts of data to unveil patterns, correlations, and draw insights – which would have been very difficult or impossible to discover, for better and rapid informed decisions.
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
Our country’s economic growth remains muted and it is too low to lift the bottom half of our population out of poverty, according to the World Bank. Domestic demands far exceed our production, bribery & corruption gnawing away the institution that is supposed to protect us and the unemployment rate is expected to reach 33.5% this year, the highest since independence.
There is an urgent need to put all hands on deck to tackle this menace before it gets to a point of no return. There is a need for innovative tools to be integrated into governance: to help better plan, formulate appropriate policies & strategies and to monitor impacts of implemented projects and social interventions. Big data analytics, because of its multiple sources of data, demands that government processes be based on insights obtained from data analysis. If executed properly, it will not just solve our current problems, it will propel our nation to become part of the giants of information societies.
There are different areas in which the government, whether federal, state, or local, could implement big data analytics to develop a citizen-centric model for government:
Towards Citizens: Government is of the people, by the people, and for the people; but the people are the first victims to suffer from bad governance. Lack of proper planning is part of the reason citizens are neck-deep into poverty.
Big data gives governments the tools and insight to unveil ideas on how to reduce levels of poverty. The data provides information that will allow for targeted interventions while measuring and accurately predicting the outcome of the intervention.
Access to the data would allow governments to plan on where to build schools and more importantly, the content of education required for students to succeed. The U.S department of education is using data mining and big data analytics to enhance teaching and learning. Citizens should be able to trust the government to deliver accurate and timely education to its citizens in the most efficient way.
With big data analytics, governments can send materials to targeted health care facilities that record high rates of health issues. The reach of service delivery to rural citizens will be drastically increased with data-driven targeted projects. This means governments will have better control over resources and their effectiveness in the community.
Towards Government Employees: Proper management of government employees and evaluation for proper conduct is key to improving efficiency and stagnating workplace productivity. Successful businesses such as Facebook and Google use big data analytics for target training, improving the performance of weaker teams to the same level as high performers. Big data can be used to evaluate employees and would save the government millions of Naira. The government can personalize the learning experience of its employees as well. HR managers can recruit smarter, they can monitor and design training programs to develop new skills and improve existing skills specific according to the employee’s weakness instead of a “one size fits all” approach. By using analytics, strategies could be introduced to improve productivity.
Towards Security: The U.S Bureau of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the treasury department uses big data analysis to collect and analyze bank transactions for suspicious behavior. Security and Law Enforcement Agencies could use big data to stop a crime before it happens. By integrating Machine Learning models, data analysts could predict and notify relevant departments on frauds and misuse of funds.
Movements of bandits and terrorists could be analyzed and their camps could be located much faster. Real-time analysis and prediction will save citizens and eventually bring an end to the culprits.
Towards Governmental MDAs: Big data analytics seeks that there be cross-flow of data and information among MDAs. All MDAs would find very useful, data and information from one or more other MDAs. This requires agencies to be open to information sharing. The cross-flow would drastically cut down the time it takes for planning and executing projects. Vital information such as intelligence could be easily accessed and exchanged between relevant agencies which will aid in the rapid & efficient implementation of strategies and policies.
By obtaining the most efficient and impactful insights from the analysis, different governmental processes such as quality assurance, testing, etc., thereby saving the nation funds that can be used somewhere else.
CHALLENGES & OVERCOMING THEM
The traditional data collection and processing techniques being used can no longer catch up with the volume and velocity at which socio-economic data is growing. The interests, needs, thoughts, and population of people are rapidly changing. Even though the government’s open data initiative (opendata.com.ng) is commendable, the amount of data needed is far greater than what is being collected. There is a need for the government to collect and utilize the data collected by other sources such as Non-governmental organizations, a lot of which sit on a massive amount of data that could be used for big data analysis.
Thus, the Nigerian government needs to adopt more advanced techniques to capture data about their citizens to properly plan and provide the basic social amenities which will benefit a larger percentage of the population.
There is also the need for policy change, awareness among the public and training of leaders and government employees on how to better draw insights and use it for decision making.
Governments at all levels need to invest in data analytics capabilities to enable them to explore socio-economic data which will, in turn, help them deliver good governance.
Businesses use big data to address customer needs. Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify are leveraging its use to increase revenues into billions of dollars by making big data-backed decisions.
With a population of about 200 million people and a country in desperate need of economic and social development. Nigeria needs to integrate big data into running the government. With the popularity of cloud computing and IoT (internet of things), implementation and management will not be as difficult as it would have 10 years ago.
Because of the increased reach of service delivery to citizens, trust in government is bound to go high. Implementing big data analytics will allow us to be on equal footing with developed countries. We have the resources and the manpower to achieve this, all we need is the will and vision for a better Nigeria.
About the Author: Malik Kabir Mustapha can be reached at email@example.com