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Home Portfolio Communications & Technology Big data useless without human element
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DEPARTMENTSDepartment of Human Services
TAGS Barry Sandison, big data, data analytics
You never know what you might uncover when you examine big data with a curious and critical eye, argued DHS’s Medicare chief Barry Sandison. People’s natural curiosity is the key to unlocking the insights within Australia’s vast welfare records.
Big data is an invaluable tool for government, but by itself won’t reveal all the answers you’re looking for — for that you need people, argues Barry Sandison, deputy secretary, Health Compliance and Information at the Department of Human Services.
“You have to be curious. You’ve got to wonder, you’ve got to look at ‘what if?’,” he said at last month’s Australia and New Zealand School of Government conference in Melbourne.
“You can’t just assume that data is going to get there and say ‘here is the answer that’s what we’ve been looking for’. If you are, you’re probably trying to channel the answer and get the answer you want, rather than what the data will tell you.”
He said when he first heard Donald Rumsfeld’s maxim about known-knowns, known-unknowns et cetera, he thought it trite, but “getting involved in the data space over the last few years, it actually started to make sense.” There are plenty of unknown-unknowns in data, and the best way to uncover them is to start digging.
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The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.
David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He's previously written for The Guardian and Crikey and holds a masters in international relations.
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