A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues

There is a ton of talk today about “big” data.  The concept comes from our ever increasing ability to collect, store, and manage larger and larger datasets full of vast amounts of information – customer information, habits, purchasing patterns, social media visits, and so on.  Unfortunately, I think many private and public organizations have become much like the Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’ Lorax:

I had to grow bigger so bigger I got. I biggered my factory, I biggered my roads, I biggered the wagons, I biggered the loads…

I biggered my datasets because that is what everyone, everyone needs…

The true test of an organization’s ability to use any data effectively is in the analysis of that data.  What can you understand from “big” data and how can it help government organizations achieve greater efficiencies, effectiveness, and engagement with the citizens they serve?  I think the answer is in the smaller, localized, actionable gems that you sift out of the ever-growing big data.

GovDelivery recently published the 2011 Federal Digital Communications Report in which we reflect on the breadth and depth of digital communications across governmental agencies.  We leveraged big data to highlight actionable information that can provide important insights for government agencies, including what topics were important to citizens.

  • 28% of governmental messages sent out via the GovDelivery platform dealt with Health & Health Care in 2011.  It was a critical topic focused on by the national media, and this report shows that all levels of government agencies provided further analyses, clarifications, policies, and follow-up through their digital communications.

  • Over 25% of governmental messages dealt with Business & Small Business and Jobs & Employment.  Again, the economy has been a major focus throughout the world.  This has given government organizations the opportunity to get out timely information to help its citizens cope as well as help support increased economic activity by educating and encouraging entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  • IRS, National Weather Service, FEMA, and USDA had some of the highest shared content across all Federal agencies that use the GovDelivery digital communications solution.  This list shows the specific messages from government agencies that citizens felt compelled to share with family and other social networks. It demonstrates immediate mission value for government while also providing agencies with information that can help them tailor their future communications. Many shared important updates and news alerts related to subjects like:
  1. SAMHSA – Facebook’s First-of-a-Kind Service to Help Prevent Suicides
  2. USDA – New Food Icon to help consumers make healthier food choices
  3. USA.gov – Moment of silence in remembrance of 9/11
  • By identifying some detailed data, we were able to highlight the incredible growth of specific topics that showed growing public interest. The report showed that the SSA’s W-2 News, FEMA’s Updates During Disasters, and AHRQ’s Patient Safety grew the most by number of subscribers over 2011.

The study overall provides remarkable proof that governments are providing relevant, topic based, and insightful information for their citizens.  GovDelivery is proud to partner with government organizations to help get the word out about the kind of information that impact all of us.

Theoretically, the idea of big data for government sounds valuable, but in reality, big data doesn’t provide the insight that helps you communicate better with the public.  It is not just about “biggering” your data; it is about leveraging specific data to lead to greater wisdom and insights.  If you ever need help seeing the detailed trees through the ever-growing data forest, contact us at GovDelivery.

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