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Public administrators in Italy make effective use of big data with SAS

In the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, the region's public administration has begun to make effective use of big data in a variety of ways using SAS solutions; these huge and complex data sets are amassed by public sector bodies on a routine basis. This work has been led by the CSI-Piemonte consortium.

"We plan and develop innovative public services that make life easier for citizens and businesses, and facilitate and accelerate dealings with the public administration," explains Paola Leproni, Head of the Governance Management Area at CSI-Piemonte, speaking at a SAS big data seminar.

CSI also helps these public entities to cooperate, share best practices and optimize their internal processes. As a result, they can save time, reduce costs and satisfy the needs of their citizens.

In addition, CSI encourages the involvement of local companies in public sector projects and helps them respond to calls for tender. It also supports their drive to differentiate and cooperate.

CSI has been using SAS solutions for over 30 years. Its range of SAS tools is among the broadest in Europe, and it employs more than 70 SAS experts

It is essential that we can convert what is purely data and information into knowledge and intelligence.
Paola Leproni

Paola Leproni
Head of Government Management

Making full use of big data

In data management, says Leproni, CSI has gone through different development stages over a long period. These stages have ranged from printed records, operational databases and data banks to the present situation, where CSI, for instance, links together data produced by numerous Web applications and collects data from citizens and from sensors that monitor the environment.

In recent years, one of CSI's main goals has been to help public administration entities share data among themselves. This involved setting up a single regional public administration database.

Following this, CSI began to distribute master data to public organizations and to develop joint use of data. And it also started to share open data via the Internet.

Nevertheless, Leproni points out that the volume of data is growing faster than the rate at which it is being utilized. At CSI they no longer talk only of data in general but also about big data, much of which comes via the media, entertainment, health care, video surveillance and social media.

"We believe that it is extremely important to be able to manage all this data," Leproni says.

Different sectors produce different quantities and types of big data. Banks, for example, produce a lot of numeric data, but less in the way of video, pictorial and audio data. The media, on the other hand, produces an abundance of all data types.

In some sectors the potential benefits of big data are greater than in others, notes Leproni.

"Public administration is in a particularly good position to make use of big data, so this will be our mission in the future," Leproni says. "We want to make ever better use of big data."

New analytics power

The public administration entities in the Piedmont region have a total of 1,338 conventional databases, according to Leproni. If the databases are arranged by subject, the number increases to 1,485, because there are a lot of multisubject databases.

CSI has already begun to manage various new big data categories, such as the digital library, health care pictorial image data, streaming data and sensor data on the environment. It also distributes this data for public organizations to utilize.

"We also aim to create links between this and conventional data, so that we can derive fresh analytical power from both," says Leproni.

At CSI the view is that traditional BI is turning into data science, because data volumes are growing exponentially and a completely new type of data is becoming available for analysis, and because more advanced tools and considerably greater processing power are available for the analysis. For this purpose, CSI requires new kinds of experts who are able to produce business value from the new type of data, says Leproni.

"It is essential that we can convert what is purely data and information into knowledge and intelligence," Leproni adds. "We believe that data visualization will grow rapidly. We want to optimize all our processes and do this using data visualization."

SAS infrastructure is the answer

According to CSI's IT Services Manager, Marco Boero, who appeared with Leproni at the SAS seminar, the aims in handling big data are that there should be improved management of the platform and reduced platform costs.

"Business, on the other hand, requires more agile production processes for BI services, as well as compliance with SLA agreements made with customers and 24/7 services, task-critical services and protection from interruptions in use," he explains.

With these needs in mind, says Boero, CSI had to develop its BI platform in order to secure business continuity using architectural solutions. The architectural solution chosen was the SAS analytical infrastructure based on distributed network computing, in-database computing and in-memory computing.

CSI has selected SAS Grid Manager as its practical implementation tool, which, says Boero, allows centralized management of the environment and prioritization of the organization's policies.

Usability for SAS applications is high, notes Boero, as use is not disrupted by maintenance measures. Different applications can be used flexibly and simultaneously. And users can both obtain more data and receive more complex analyses in less time than before.

According to Leproni and Boero, public administration is in a particularly good position to make use of big data, which is why it will remain CSI-Piemonte's mission in the future.


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