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David Bray of FCC @FCC_CIO Discusses Public Service and Data Analytics at 2014 Analyst Forum 

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On July 30th in northern Virginia, some of the greatest minds in analytics for business, outcomes, and mission impact gathered to share their lessons learned and experiences with data analytics. Academia, government, and industry came together to provide a comprehensive approach to investigating how we can better extract knowledge from information (see our recap here).

This post captures more details from a presentation and discussion led by David Bray, the Chief Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission. Dr. Bray framed data analytics within a larger discussion of public service. “The connectivity of today’s world is a fundamental shift and a challenge,” Mr. Bray said, “We cannot keep applying linear models to an exponentially changing world.”

In his experience serving the public, Mr. Bray has observed the increasing blurring of the lines differentiating the public sector, the private sector, academia, and nonprofits. The current demand for innovation is at an all-time high, and as a result the shape and scope of public service must be nimble.

To illustrate his point, Mr. Bray shared the story of an application for smartphones created by the FCC. The app tested users’ Internet speeds three times per day (downloading and using the app was strictly voluntary and was not incentivized). The FCC expected a few thousand downloads, so its leaders were shocked when 50,000 people downloaded and used the app. The resulting data provided valuable information to the FCC regarding the speeds provided by ISPs – and whether or not those speeds were consistent with ISPs’ claims.

Mr. Bray speculated that similar uses of crowdsourcing could be applied to all sorts of public projects, like providing computing power for cancer research or communicating power outages in the case of a public emergency.

Mr. Bray described the future of data analytics as algorithm-centered. To support this assertion, he related a story of the development of an algorithm that outperformed its human counterparts in grading essays. Mr. Bray called for the creation of competitions for algorithms to develop new formulas to further public service and contribute to the common good.

For data analysts out there, Mr. Bray provided two important lessons learned. One, “context, context, context” is first and foremost for cross-sector sharing. Two, leaders must encourage their associates to point out their blindspots – although there is a common misconception that leaders should be all-knowing, all leaders have their weaker subjects. Incentivizing workers to recognize and improve leaders’ blindspots is an effective way to continue to grow as an executive.

Finally, Mr. Bray shared his thoughts about the future of the FCC. He believes that the Commission needs to engage with open communities – acting as a data broker and making code available to the public whenever possible. “If you’re not out in the open, then you’re going to miss out.”

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com