Saturday, September 27, 2014

Partnerships for big data. Is there transparency and e-democracy involved?

I found this article, on the recent creation of an opportunity for a “Big Data” environment and thought how applicable this would be to our continuing discussions on transparency, e-democracy and cyber security. The article speaks of a collaboration, “between academia, government and industry” in an effort to create a “one stop home” for a colossal amount of data. This collection also refers to the ability to store information obtained through cameras and “social media”. The promise implied in this venture is the, “The NJBDA will increase public and private access to advanced cyber infrastructure”. How accessible this will become to the public and to what extant the individual user will be able to utilize this configuration is yet to be explained. With the implied “open” or public access, I would inquire as to how cyber security will be implemented? Also, what data will not be available to the public?
The consortium spoke of in this article will enable all major stakeholders of data collection and utilization to have input into the design, policy, procedures, and consumption of information.  “The New Jersey Big Data Alliance (NJBDA) was established by the Rutgers Office of Research and Economic Development and the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute to catalyze the collaboration among New Jersey government, academia and industry that will enable all parties to address the significant and immediate challenges posed by the proliferation of data sources and the resultant deluge of digital data in a strategic and coordinated manner.  This unprecedented alliance brings together universities and colleges from across the state, and has the overarching goals of identifying common challenges and areas of synergy, developing joint programs, and ultimately nucleating an effective alliance that will increase our research competitiveness and drive economic development in New Jersey.” (  it is hopeful that this alliance will be able to capture large amounts of information that can then be made available to the citizenry of this country. This effort could lead a pathway to increased transparency and e-democracy that can benefit all that have access to the information.
There is inspiration to be gained through this venture. There is progressive forethought going into this bill.  The statement in the article, “Unlike the other states, we are not state-mandated in our creation. We came together as fellow academics volunteering and partnering. In our state, we do not have the financial resources to do this alone.” There is promise that, with the utilization of academic minds and resources, the scales will tip toward a more democratic and transparent environment.  There is always skepticism around the government’s ability to obtain and retain large amounts of data. The usefulness of this program to the everyday citizen will be determined through the transparency level and its alignment with the democratic principles.
The State of New Jersey is a driving force for this legislation. Their effort may be primarily driven for the creation of a more friendly and competitive economic environment for the state. However, the concept involved could prove to be very beneficial to all. All skepticism should not be placed only on the economic value. With all data collection there are always capitol opportunities that can be seized and exploited.

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