Big data is a general term for the massive amount of digital information being collected from all sorts of sources collected into databases using various techniques. 2.5 quintillion bytes of data added each day to these databases with the majority of the world’s information collected in the last five years and with only 10% of that data being refined. 90% of the data is raw and unstructured just sitting there waiting to be analysed. This mammoth amount of big data, specifically gathered by means of online methods, mined by the government harbours the ability for businesses to use for a strategic or financial benefit. The government has begun to derive insight to help support business decision making in real-time from multiple sources, including the web, biological and industrial sensors, video, email, and social mediums. 

Many white papers, journals, articles, and business reports have proposed ways governments can use big data to help them serve their citizens by providing businesses with an information reservoir that can be accessed with the desired outcome that businesses can profit from the information and stimulate job creation. This would be a motivation for the government as lower unemployment rates would mean a greater pool of people and profitable businesses to tax ensuring a healthy revenue stream to maintain social services. Like with any new uncharted advantage; however, there are many things to consider such as security. Any form of personal information is subject to classification and risk to a person’s privacy. With greater risk that the information gathered can be used to impersonate an individual more complex methods of new technology will need to be used for security purposes to protect the big data.

It can be argued that highly sensitive personal data shouldn’t ever be made available for a business; however, with proper precautions and fees in place, it would seem like a wasted opportunity not to. 



Business and  Government Compared

The private sector is well known for making decisive decisions especially if it will maximise the profits in the short-term. Whereas the public sector is known to take time making decisions that will affect its citizens in the long term. For that reason to reduce risk and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a decision. It follows that big-data applications likewise differ between public and private sectors.

In business, the main goal is to earn profits by providing goods and services to satisfied customers. The government’s main goal is to maintain the welfare civil order of its citizens through sustainable services. Although the primary missions of businesses and governments are not supposed to be in direct conflict with one another, data that is gathered by the government, for public sector benefits, can be a for the private sector business strategy. 

Big-Data Applications in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland sadly has an imbalance of public versus private sector work where it currently only sits at 40% of the sum total. This large public sector is subsidised by the taxes collected by the rest of the United Kingdom. It is therefore in Northern Ireland’s best interest to encourage private sector growth as much as possible in the form of government-funded initiatives.

These initiatives realise market research is critical to a companies success. They can help small and large businesses to plan and execute marketing activities effectively by providing in-depth information to help break into new markets. An example of a government initiative with the express intent on gathering data would be Invest NI in Belfast. Their headquarters has extensive market research and worldwide company directories that can be used for free to a point. Their range of business information includes details of trade fairs, guidance on import/export procedures, funding sources and legal agreements, companies by sectors, their owners and telephone numbers.