OpenGov recently spoke to Kamal Brar, Vice President and
General Manager of APAC/ME, Hortonworks
about how governments can strike a balance between enabling the data economy and mitigating risks for citizens and businesses. Mr. Brar also talked about the impact of trends like cloud
and IoT and the implications of privacy protection regulations.
Founded in 2011, Hortonworks is a leading provider of big
data platforms for capturing, storing, processing and analysing data.
What are the most
important trends you see currently in the use of big data by governments in the
ASEAN region, in Singapore and in other countries?
The ASEAN region is rapidly moving towards a
digitally-enabled economy, with the ASEAN ICE Masterplan 2020 (AIM2020). The
plan encompasses eight strategic thrusts that focus on enabling an innovative,
inclusive and integrated ASEAN community.
On this front, big data plays a central role in enabling
innovation for ASEAN governments – starting with supporting open and big data
The major trend we’re seeing across most ASEAN governments
is the development of guides and applications for open and big data.
and Malaysia have already taken steps to establish forums or platforms for the
private sector to share big data developments, and the other governments are at
varying levels of implementing similar strategies.
What has been the
impact of developments like migration to cloud and proliferation of IoT devices
for public sector data?
The capacity the Internet of Things (IoT) has to connect
devices and gather previously unimagined amounts of information has led to an
explosion of new kinds of data that’s opening up tremendous opportunities.
Meanwhile, cloud-computing plays a critical role in harnessing data produced
from billions of connected devices because of the flexibility and elasticity of
the platforms. Together, the convergence of these two trends provide a unique
opportunity for companies to rapidly ingest, process and analyse data to
generate actionable insights and provide improved services – across a wide
range of public sector services.
One example of its use in the public sector from the United
States is the MITRE
Corporation, a non-profit organisation that operates multiple federally
funded research and development centres including the Center for Advanced
Aviation System Development (CAASD),
which serves the public interest by advancing the safety, security, effectiveness,
and efficiency of aerospace in the United States and around the world.
The CAASD continuously ingests, stores and analyses massive
amounts of detailed flight data from a variety of sources and enriches it with
other data, such as: pilot and air traffic controller voice recordings, weather
data and terrain maps. Storing this data both in the cloud and on-premise, the
team has created derived data products.
With flight data, combined with data from hundreds of
different surveillance sensors, the team can now create logical “flight
stories” for any growing number of specific flights. The derived data products
are continually stored to enable historical analyses; the archive of flight
stories currently spans more than five years. All of this visibility helps to
identify systematic risks across the National Airspace System and develop
mitigation measures with airspace users, such as controller training
improvements or changes to operational procedures.
What are the
challenges faced by the public sector in unlocking the maximum potential of
data? How can they overcome those challenges?
The primary challenge for the public sector is balancing the
demands of citizens and enterprises in unlocking the potential for data, while
putting in place the necessary regulations and contingencies to mitigate risk
for citizens and businesses.
Simply put, the pace of technology innovation has continued
at a furious rate putting pressure on regulatory measures and with the
ever-increasing threat landscape, it is imperative that governments have
implemented security measures to protect the data for their citizens and
economy at large.
Another key challenge is the acute skills shortage in the
ASEAN ICT sector, which is preventing enterprises from rapidly adopting data
For both these challenges, partnerships between the public
and private sector can play a huge role – not only in outlining and
implementing data regulations and identifying security risks, but tapping on
the private sectors’ expertise in training and skills development for future
generations of data scientists.
In the context of the
broader economy, what role can the government play in development of a digital
In the digital economy, the government must play the dual
role of regulator and driver of data initiatives. From an authoritative
standpoint, it is critical that the government outlines the regulations for
data usage in terms of governance and security to ensure the safety of its
citizens and the wider economy. However, this must be done with the view of
enabling the data economy – through open data platforms and initiatives,
encouraging innovation and application of big data for new services. It is a
delicate balance to walk but one that must be achieved to fuel the economies of
What are the
implications of privacy protection regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or Singapore’s PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act) on
the collection, sharing, analysis of data for organisations in the private or
We live in an age where data misuse is at an all-time high,
but GDPR and Singapore’s PDPA hand significant power back to the consumer. It
strengthens the rights of individuals to control their own data. The regulation
demands that businesses make their digital operations more consumer-focused and
responsive. The penalties for non-compliance to GDPR regulations are
substantial and organisations should be putting plans in place to meet the
regulations. This can also be seen as an opportunity for businesses to enhance
their existing systems by focusing on a comprehensive digital strategy, which
fosters innovation while protecting data for citizens and consumers.