Big Data and Public Administrations: New Perspectives for the Public Cognitive Function

By Matteo Falcone

The big data phenomenon, which originated in the private sector, is also progressively expanding to the public sector and public authorities. Big data are a set of data with specific characteristics that are changing the culture surrounding data, and the methods for and needs behind the collection, storage and processing of data, in particular of public nature. This paper aims to make a first contribution to the study of the big data phenomenon in the public sector, starting with some reflections on the public cognitive function. In addition to examining the risks arising from the use of big data — risks long highlighted by many scholars, in particular concerning the confidentiality of personal data and competition in specific markets, such as the digital market — it is also useful to reflect on the effects (which are not entirely negative) of the cognitive performance of public administrations and the organization and management of public data. Big data and their use in administrative proce- dures can significantly change many aspects of the cognitive function of the public administration: the characteristics of procedural investigations; the relationship between the decision and the investigation stage; the system of procedural safeguards; but also the regulation of the quality of public data and the objectives of the integration policies of large public databases.