Governments are swimming in a sea of data. Highly segregated data silos continue to present a formidable roadblock to fully leveraging and benefiting from data governments collect. New technologies and pioneering work done by Resultant Consulting have demonstrated it is possible to break down these silos and provide significant benefits and opportunities like never before.
John Roach, President for Resultant, and David Fletcher, Chief Technology Officer for the State of Utah, discussed how state and local governments are at the center of the data revolution at the GovLoop State and Local Virtual Summit on September 16th.
Historically, in the public sector data environment, when states thought about resources at their disposal, money was often considered their primary resource. Data wasn’t often thought of as a resource. Today, a shift is occurring in which data is becoming influential in impacting states’ ability to improve citizens lives.
States have long collected a great deal of data; it’s a requirement for securely providing services to constituents. For example, health and human services agencies track information about residents’ health, families, genetic or contagious illnesses, and social service needs. Transportation agencies track traffic and accident information. The department of revenue tracks income information for residents and businesses. Each agency requires unique data sets to fulfill its purpose and measure its success. Often, there is data duplication from agency to agency, at the very least shared data sources, and consistently a lack of information sharing from agency to agency. The long-standing culture of data collection positions the public sector to successfully tackle major challenges as cross-agency data combination is securely enabled.
With data on hand, states must determine how to leverage it. Within state governments, there are often disconnected silos of data. Meaningful problems citizens face are rarely contained solely within one data source. For example, people who participate in one needs-based program provided by the state, often, participate in multiple programs funded by the state. Delivering the right kind of services to citizens requires bringing those data sets together to understand the full picture of each individual citizen.
States should first and foremost use data as a strategic asset. Often, when people think about the ability to leverage data, foremost they think about technology. Technology is an important foundation and enabler, but there are a multitude of issues and benefits that come into play. States must look at the full spectrum of the problem and the solution.
Resultant’s experience working in the public sector has shown a four-tiered solution drives better risk management and compliance, accurate and precise business metrics, and predictive capabilities.
In the simplest sense, the process boils down to defining the right problems and making a programmatic change. Iteration, hypothesis generation and formation, and testing statistically and robustly is essential.
For the public sector, specifically, there are several matters that must be addressed before it may be put to meaningful use. For instance, the disparity of information collected across agencies, as well as the accuracy of the data collector, necessitates a probabilistic combination of data from disparate sets. Additionally, quality of the provided data must be addressed in the same manner for it to provide meaningful outcomes through analysis. Ensuring the security and respecting the sensitivity of data through masking the original data, protects citizens and businesses while adhering to federal and state regulations. Addressing these and similar matters is required to successfully glean insights from combined data.
Data-Driven Decisions in Action
Following the combination of state’s disparate data sets, which was enabled by the formation of Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub, the State of Indiana and Resultant are working on several initiatives using combined agency data for advanced data-driven decisions. These types of initiatives can be applied widely across state governments and, for Indiana, are related to infant mortality, tax fraud, criminal recidivism, social worker maximization, and more. Findings within each use case are informing policy and budget decisions, in addition to refining and improving success within specific Indiana agencies.
In summary, data is often a state’s largest untapped asset. Strategic use of data requires a cultural shift, the right technology, and proper skillsets. Use cases on how to effectively utilize data can span wide breadths of government function. Ultimately, states should allow results to inform policy and programming.