A modern big data strategy for vaulting federal agencies toward digital modernization

Christine Gregory, Looker Specialist for Google Cloud Public Sector

Apr 5, 2021

Data volumes have skyrocketed, with estimates indicating that more data was generated in the past two years than in the entire human history before it. This explosive growth is happening across all sectors, including within federal agencies.

Many federal agencies realize there is unharnessed power to be derived from all of that big data. They now view a sound data blueprint as the cornerstone of their efforts to keep constituents safe, ensure security, and instill trust in the information being shared. They want and need data-driven insights that provide a fair and accurate agency-wide representation of operations and management. They also need data delivered at speed and scale for operational effectiveness and increased efficiency.

More and more, federal government agencies place greater importance on big data and view it as a strategic asset that can be used to make better, faster decisions. However, they are challenged with finding a better way to automate the collection, storage, distribution, and use of it to lay the right groundwork for making those decisions.

A big data strategy for federal government agencies

Every agency knows that data needs to be of high quality, accurate, complete, timely, protected, and trustworthy. Many have established data strategy goals that typically include these principles:

  • Make data visible so data consumers can easily locate it. Moving toward better visibility allows users to discover and rapidly identify who is responsible for specific data assets, their location, the data types available, and a way to access the information they need.
  • Make data accessible so data consumers can easily retrieve information when they need it, including data that is automatically pushed to interested and approved users—all in a secure manner.
  • Make data understandable so consumers can recognize what the reports mean, understand their context, and how to apply this knowledge to their work. Understanding data is critical to enable enhanced, accurate, and timely decision-making.
  • Link data that is related by adhering to industry best practices for open data standards, data catalogs, and metadata tagging. This ensures that connections across disparate sources can be made and leveraged for analytics.
  • Maintain trustworthiness of data to deliver needed value to all stakeholders for making timely decisions.
  • Make data interoperable by properly exchanging data between systems and maintaining semantic understanding so data consumers have a common representation and comprehension of data to make confident decisions.
  • Maintain security so consumers know that data is protected from unauthorized use and manipulation.

How Looker can help

Today’s public sector workers need faster access to data than ever before, along with ways to pinpoint information that offers value to them. Looker’s mantra for years has been to deliver data to workers when, where, and how they need it to more effectively do their jobs and make strategic, informed decisions. In other words, Looker makes big data available in a manner that amplifies your workforce, making them all better able to effectively perform tasks easily and quickly—as well as add strategic value to your federal government agency.

Looker helps keep teams informed by giving authorized users access to data so they can be informed at the point of decision. In addition, Looker can infer relationships in your database schema to quickly build a modern data model. Looker makes sure your data is left securely in your database. You manage permissions that control access to data at the row or column level, and your information can be relied on because you have one data platform that gives everyone a secure, trustworthy, unified view of what is happening.

We are driven to build a data platform that scales with the exponential growth in volume and demands for big data—and meets the growing need for data security, even in environments with complex security requirements.

Looker also supports a broader set of experiences for all stakeholders to help drive value from data via four interrelated data experiences.

  1. Modern BI and analytics that serve up real-time, relevant reports and dashboards that act as starting points for more in-depth analysis.
  2. Integrated insights that infuse data throughout the organization by going beyond dashboards and reports.
  3. Data-driven workflows that super-charge operational workflows with complete, near-real time data.
  4. Custom applications that can be tailored for specific teams within your agency.

Using data strategically in the government sector

Let me give you a couple of use cases for Looker on public sector data.

COVID forecasting

COVID forecasting is an area where the use of data becomes crucial—since it’s difficult to make (and respond to) predictions without analytics. With Looker, states can use machine learning algorithms to determine which restrictions to enact or ease, and predict the number of COVID cases by creating different “what if” scenarios. Imagine a scenario where COVID cases are down, vaccinations are up, and the state would like to ease restrictions on restaurants. Looker can easily visualize the model of that scenario and help determine the optimal way to lift restrictions while maintaining a low case count.

Because of these analytics capabilities, states are making better informed decisions. Now they have the ability to take action based on consistent and accurate data models.

Vaccine distribution

Looker can help analyze data from vaccine management systems to provide real time analysis of distribution in their state and monitor inventory levels. State and local health officials, medical providers, and pharmaceutical professionals can easily keep track of the population that has received the vaccine, which vaccine they received, and when they are scheduled for their second round. They can even do trend analysis if people have an allergic reaction and find out which vaccine was used in those cases.

Looker helps state and local governments ensure that their information on vaccines are consistent and accurate.


Agencies responsible for cybersecurity rely on analytics too. Typically, these agencies have a massive amount of log data that is costly to store and difficult to analyze in traditional security event and incident management (SIEM) tools.

Organizations have started to migrate their security logs into MPP databases or data lakes and utilize Looker to better handle all this data. Now, they can more easily detect anomalies and analyze threats from larger amounts of data more efficiently, in near real time. They can reduce risk by asking next level questions at the most granular level of detail while driving costs down.

What to do next

With data playing a heightened role in decision making within federal government agencies, now is a perfect time to work with a trusted partner who can help automate the collection, storage, distribution and analysis of your data. To learn more about how federal agencies can leverage Looker to meet their data strategy goals, read this whitepaper and request a demo with our team today.