Graph databases most commonly associated with social networks and recently adopted by enterprises are now being looked into by government agencies and the civil services to manage big data. Neo Technology’s Emil Eifrem explains how graph databases have the potential to enhance digital public services
Government agencies are sitting on a wealth of information that could be mined to offer valuable insight to its citizens to better run public services, but the data mountain has proved a challenge for many.
In addition with the advance of consumerization in technology, citizens are expecting a 24/7 flow of information. This always on, anytime, anywhere connection has put huge pressure on government to improve digital services to meet the public’s expectations.
The multiplicity of data being collected has the potential to help governments at local, state and national level to achieve some really positive outcomes and help in their decision-making, such as where to budget housing resources, for example. But, to do this they need to put data into more useable formats and invest in the people and the systems to analyze it.
Relational databases are useful tools here. Designed to link data into searchable tables they are easy to set up. But with the march of the internet and social media, a more powerful tool is required, one that can actually uncover relationships: the connections between people, locations and events that make up society. The answer could be in the graph database, fast being adopted by business, which mirrors the linked, non-hierarchical mapping of the Web.
Graph databases are basically navigated and searched by following relationships. They do not require data to be stored in rigidly defined tables like relational databases, so it is possible to map connections wherever they lead.
Civil servants can use graph databases to spot patterns emerging by connecting multiple legal, welfare, health or demographic datasets, for example. They can, for example, find out how many elderly people living in a certain neighborhood require assisted living care.
Changing The Face Of Society
But, how would graph databases work in a real world scenario? Take the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement, for example. With the help of visualized relationship connections in real time, it could collaborate with civil servants on individual cases of potential interest to border control. What’s more all this happens in real time, which is extremely helpful in supporting better decision-making by any border security officer.
In order to get a complete “360 degree view,” it is imperative that either all the data is held in one central place, or all the data is abridged. As the former is impractical, given the way departments within the government are structured, a graph database can help build a registry-style MDM system that stores the most useful metadata, including the location of the actual master data.
An Aid To Government Policy
As well as gleaning insight, graph databases can also help government with policy creation. Teams can communicate with other departments within state administrations, sharing their results. This means graph database technology could soon be enabling innovative, highly responsive informal learning system in more than one national application.
Graph databases’ strength in social networking can also help government to track and analyze social media to help target terrorists, for example, or crime rings. Using graph databases, government agencies can work with top-level metadata to see hidden patterns and groups of interest in social media networks. Graph databases use fuzzy logic, for example, which is effective at drawing attention to slightly variant name spellings, which may all refer back to the same person.
Graph Databases: A Foundation For Digital Services
From the many conversations we have had with public sector, technology and policy professionals, graph databases could undoubtedly drive more efficient and integrated digital public services.
The US government, like many other governments around the globe, is moving away from top-down bureaucracy to develop digital offerings that instigate interaction between citizens and the state. Coupled with this, citizens want more transparent and timely delivery of services.
Local, state and federal leaders are looking to enterprises for answers to help them in their digital transformation to reinvent the citizen experience in this brave new connected world. Imagine, for example, being able to track the money trail between people and their bank accounts in order to stop tax evaders, white-collar criminals or even terrorists by joining the dots in their web of deception, a pattern that is way too complex for relational approaches to manage.
Graph databases have already shown their power in business to leverage data relationships for real-time, enterprise-level insights. Graph databases should now be in the toolbox of every government agency, helping their digital services drive higher levels of citizen engagement and satisfaction.
Latest posts by Emil Eifrem
- Why Now Is the Ideal Time for the CIO to Work with Graphs - November 29, 2016
- Can Graph Databases Really Advance Our Digital Public Services? - August 29, 2016
- Graph Technology: The Answer to Combating Fraud - March 22, 2016