How data is enabling a new era of government innovation
Data can empower and inform government organizations in a number of ways, from providing indicators on progress towards mission goals, to facilitating decision-making, and improving government operations and programs.
That power can be extended through collaboration. Sharing access to data, dashboards, reports, and outputs from an analytics platform can fuel new avenues of innovation and impact, as users combine government data with their own, and bring new perspectives, experience, and tools to bear on analysis.
And giving individuals the power to analyze all relevant data—whether it’s their own data, open government data, or other data sources—is essential to building a modern, data-driven organization.
This is the final blog post in a four-part blog series looking at how agencies can leverage a modern analytics platform to achieve actionable insights and drive better outcomes. This post discusses how a more collaborative approach to data can drive greater innovations in government programs and services.
Making Federal Data Strategy a reality
The President’s Management Agenda sets out the need for a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy to manage data as a strategic asset. The strategy requires prioritizing data, and developing procedures for leveraging and sharing data assets between government organizations, private sector organizations, researchers, and citizens. Ultimately, the goals are to make data more accessible—in a variety of useable formats, from downloadable datasets and application program interfaces for developers and analysts, to visualizations that are easy to understand and relevant to users.
Making data available to everyone requires strong data governance, data security and compliance with federal law protecting data privacy. For example, the President’s Management Agenda calls out the National Center for Health Statistics for employing an effective data access policy that optimizes access while preserving confidentiality (in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). The Center provides data access online along with a selection of data tools, analytical aids, and data visualizations.
The granddaddy of federal data collection is also a leader in data analytics and data access. Since its first survey in 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has embraced new innovations in data collection and analysis, and pioneered new technologies that support their mission goals. In fact, the Bureau purchased the first commercially produced digital computer, UNIVAC, in 1951.
Viewing its job as delivering data back to the public, the Bureau offers 130 data products and resources, including:
- American Fact Finder, a searchable database that pulls data from a variety of surveys
- TIGERweb applications that let users easily view geospatial data without downloading the data or using geographic information system (GIS) software
- data.census.gov, a new natural language search interface now available in beta form, with a formal rollout planned in 2019
The Bureau also strives to share knowledge, tools, examples, and best practices, disseminating analytics information and training opportunities through its Data Visualization Newsletter, and examples and insights through its online series, America Counts: Stories Behind the Numbers.
The USAID has an even broader perspective on data sharing, reflecting its mission to serve the global good. To that end, the agency has created dashboards by functional sector and geography, including a quarterly dashboard available to the public, and information on foreign aid initiatives dating back to the Marshall Plan era. In line with the government mandate for fiscal transparency, USAID also makes information available to the public via a quarterly dashboard at https://results.usaid.gov/results.
Better government through data analytics
These examples illustrate how actionable data is foundational to operational excellence and innovation in government organizations. Expanding data access to include a vast array of government and external sources allows all stakeholders to pursue new ways to collaborate and use data analytics to solve challenging problems, broaden understanding, improve quality of life, and enhance both government and private-sector programs, products, services, and initiatives.
But it all begins with a modern analytics platform. As discussed in earlier posts in this series, agencies need to invest in a platform that enables agencies to incorporate data into their decision-making processes quickly and intuitively. Older generations of the technology offered powerful analytic tools, but they lacked the ability to bring data into the scope of the larger enterprise and to extend the value of that data to stakeholders across the enterprise and beyond.