Features > Big Data
Improving Public Services with Big Data Analytics

One of the hottest keywords these days is big data. Today let’s learn how big data is being utilized in different countries.


Is Big Data

According to “Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”, published in 2011 by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), 15 out of 17 companies in the U.S. have more stored data than the U.S. Library of Congress. Unlike in the past when big data was only considered something to be saved, recently it’s seen as a new strategic asset and a goldmine through which businesses can gain insight on so many levels.

Most businesses used to simply gather the data to be analyzed or pool some samples to understand their implications. Many companies still don’t know how to utilize big data to create better competition. They are starving for knowledge in a flood of data.

If we expand the field of big data to public services and welfare, there are some global cases creating meaningful results by using big data analytics. Let’s see what they are.




1,000 Genomes Project Website (Source: The 1000 Genomes Tutorial. The Website and Browser Feb. 2012)

The best global case of using big data for research and development would be the disease treatment system for sharing genome data in the U.S. This is basically a system where people can share and analyze the genome data to research various diseases. They save the genome information on the Amazon cloud so it can act as a public resource from which anyone can access and get the data they need.

In the U.S. drug side effects are a major concern as they cause harm to millions of patients each year. This is because people show different symptoms and reactions to drugs even if they have the same disease according to 35,000 genes. Side effects are also the fourth biggest cause of death in the U.S. and are one of the major topics for social discussion.

What started to solve this problem is the 1,000 Genomes Project. Using the 250-300 mutant genes that have lost the capacity to play their roles, the project can research the diversity of human genes and study them more specifically.


Analyzing genes on Amazon’s web service (Source: The 1000 Genomes Tutorial A Brief History of Data and Analysis Feb. 2012)

President Obama also supported the use of big data technology and development by announcing the Big Data Initiative and investing over $200 million in March of 2012. Major federal institutes such as the National Institute of Health, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy are involved in this project in order to cooperate in creating better technology and specialization.

The National Institute of Health, in particular, has its big data program where they share cancer related video data through the National Cancer Institute. They analyze dielectric sequences and collect petabyte levels of unprocessed data. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is also planning to share a data analysis tool through which people can cooperate and get resources to save, combine, and analyze safe data so that users can have minimum constraints in studying cardiovascular diseases.

Since the announcement of the big data research and development initiative, the 1,000 genomes project has moved to the Amazon web service. Researchers use the data for free, and they only pay for the computing service according to how much they used it.

Amazon’s web service saves the genome data on its cloud to prevent loss of data. By merging accumulated research and analysis results with big data they’re able to provide speedy diagnostic services for new types of diseases. New medicine can also be created with the research from big data.


There’s another country that uses big data for public services and welfare. It’s Singapore, with their RAHS (Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning) system. As you can guess from its name, it’s a system for assessing risks on a national level in order to create countermeasures at the right time, which is before disaster strikes.

It predicts risks that can cause damage to the country and the people, and then investigates the potential risk factor that can lead to public fear as well as the uncertainty factor. With this system, they can analyze the latest social issues rising among the country’s population.


National risk factor analysis data (Source: http://www.rahs.gov.sg/public/www/home.aspx)

Such a system was created due to Singapore’s geographical situation and its historical background. Singapore is a city state located among countries that are going through conflicts related to status and religion. It’s not only vulnerable to emergencies like terrorism, global disasters, and contagious diseases, but also gained the social fear against terrorist attacks on a national level after 9/11. For these reasons, Singapore needed a solution to understand these risk factors.

As a result, they created the RAHS in 2004. This system is to predict and detect risk factors threatening national health and safety, as well as simulating various disaster situations to prepare for more immediate and effective response.

Singapore started the big data risk management plan in 2004, and utilized the collected data analysis on preventive risk detection and response strategy. When there were global crises such as H1N1, Singapore could manage the data systematically by analyzing it using their simulation and scenario methods. It also improved into a more developed form of effective and cutting-edge national risk management system.

Singapore’s RAHS was made to protect the citizens’ lives and property. Korea, which went through multiple national safety problems, such as: the Sewol ferry sinking, MERS and corona virus outbreaks, could learn how to apply big data analysis to fit the social situation.



Traffic information in Japan (Source: Nomura Institute, IT Solutions Frontier, Vol.29 No.4 (Feb. 2012)

The last case is from Japan with its Intelligent Transport System (ITS). This project started in order to create a functional traffic information system that suits the reality in Japan. Five ministries (The Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication, and the Ministry of Police) worked in cooperation to build the project’s architecture and standardization plan.

The system has collected real-time transport data from 11,000 taxis in designated cities as well as the users who agreed to their information policy, and organized it to provide the best transportation service based on the analyzed data since 2010.

UTIS (Ubiqlink Traffic Information System) also constructed its own traffic information network and can predict the traffic trends by calculating the vehicle speeds gathered from GPS data. The fact that they began to provide a smart phone service shows how advanced their system is.

Nomura Institute, which is well-known for its international economic trend and condition analysis, as well as business administration consulting, stated that their smart phone navigation service called ‘All for Navigation’ has been a big success. It also contributed in minimizing additional damages after the big earthquake in the east in 2011 that resulted in record-breaking casualties and property damages. It was by providing information to aid vehicles in real time and reducing the time wasted in heavy traffic.

ITS shares its traffic information gathered from countless users based on the big data, and provide an optimum guidance service by comparing traffic in different parts of the city. It is also considered to have improved the level of energy efficiency, by reducing the amount of energy wasted on the road with cars being stuck in bad traffic. This is why Japan’s ITS is considered as one of the most interesting cases of big data utilization in the public service field.

Today, we introduced a few cases of big data being used in the public service and welfare fields from the U.S., Singapore, and Japan. Big data is expected to get even more attention according to the rise of IoT (Internet of Things). The biometrics collected through IoT sensors will be saved on cloud servers as big data, and soon the equation between IoT and big data will become accepted by everyone.

The first thing Korea needs to do to compete in this trend is to lower its overseas dependency on smart sensors, the key technology for IoT. Expanding services using the biometric data from the IoT sensors and working with its citizens as the providers of the data will be the next steps to come up with meaningful public services.

Written by Dong-gyu Lee (www.trendsavvy.net/Pen name ‘Vierge’)

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