Big Data Empowers Citizens and Improves Services

Big Data Empowers Citizens and Improves Services

Big Data gets a lot of press these days; often to point out potential mismanagement, security issues or other challenges associated with Big Data collection and usage. But there are many areas where Big Data is being used well, and helping governments to help their constituents. Through public/private partnerships with technology companies, governments at a variety of levels have begun using big data to solve community problems and empower citizens to make choices that directly impact their lives.


Some municipalities are using Big Data to predict traffic patterns and re-route traffic to avoid gridlock and minimize traffic congestion. In addition, cities are using big data to turn any road (at any given peak time) into a toll road. This helps cities keep car congestion out of overcrowded, over-trafficked, air-polluted areas during peak times. One can either pay more for the convenience of driving in high-traffic areas when necessary, or elect to take a taxi, use public transport, bike or walk. It’s happening in many European cities and across the U.S., for example in notoriously traffic-ridden Los Angeles.

Nokia location analysis and tracking technologies are being tested using GPS devices, smartphone apps and automobile navigation systems. Collecting and analyzing data could allow future applications to issue warnings to drivers about road safety, hazards and traffic; allowing drivers to make real-time decisions about driving speed and routes.


Utilities are another area where progress is being made in empowering customers with more data to make informed choices. The IBM white paper, Managing Big Data for Smart Grids and Smart Meters, provides information about how power companies can offer lower pricing during off-peak times and allow consumers to save money by consuming power during these times. This Big Data gives people the information they need to save money on energy bills and help whole geographical regions conserve and cope in times of a shortage. The city of Seattle is using predictive analytics from big tech to help reach their goal of 25 percent savings on city power usage.

Emergency Assistance and City Services

Cities are also using Big Data to revamp emergency response and city information. Both 311 and 911 communication systems have been enhanced with this data. Data analysis for phone calls, texts and social media help get first responders to trouble scenes quicker. The data also helps dispatchers to triage the severity of incoming emergencies for better prioritization and productivity.

With this detailed and often real-time information, governments are helping citizens to save time and money, improve quality of life, and improve city services.