How to Make the Most of Your Data

For government agencies, protecting, managing and storing information properly is extremely critical. In the age of increasing cyberattacks, the ability to not only access but also manage data is essential.

The challenge agencies face is the sheer amount of data that the government has to protect. By the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet. So how can government stay a step ahead?

At GovLoop’s recent roundtable, Christopher Dorobek led a discussion with agency experts on successful data storage solutions. The speakers were:

  • Scott Thompson, Data Scientist and CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at United States Agency for International Development
  • Jennifer Hanna, Data Management Analyst, at General Services Administration
  • Rolland Miller, Federal Chief Technology Officer, Rubrik

The speakers addressed the top challenges agencies face, along with some key takeaways for solving them.

Challenge #1: How to make sense of all the data. Everyone agreed that data is important. The issue, however, was agreeing what to make of all the data that agencies receive. The key, Thompson explained, is to consider the outcome and what you want to get from all the information. “Treat your data as an asset,” Thompson said. You want to be able to take advantage of it not only in the present, but in the future as well.

By thinking about the outcome you expect, you can make your data more efficient and effective. Will the data be solving a particular issue? Is there enough data to give agencies insight into that issue? This ability to analyze data goes hand in hand with being able to responsibly manage all the information you receive. “The goal is to minimize duplicative data,” Hanna added.

Challenge #2: How to curate and preserve data. With the constant growth and influx of data, it is easy to lose important information along the way. It’s almost impossible for agencies to access and analyze all the data that they receive.

“We’re experiencing a tremendous amount of data loss,” Miller said. As technology advances, and new forms of data acquisition are developed, old data becomes difficult to manage in its old format.

One of the problems associated with this is data integration. With so much data coming from different departments and through different platforms, the challenge becomes finding a way to stitch the important information together to read it appropriately and effectively.

This is where the solution of data governance was discussed. Data governance is the process of decision-making that goes into how the data will be managed. Advanced technology — while great — is ultimately ineffective if there is no authoritative data source. Part of this requires agencies to have the ability to know what data they have already and how to effectively use it. They can do this by creating a committee to discuss data management and data-related decisions.

Challenge #3: Creating a culture for data. “Agencies need to change [their] perspective,” Miller explained. It’s important to figure out how to make data more accessible. Currently, agencies may not have the right tools or technology, but they will want to consider the future and how data will be accessed in the ever-shifting world of IT.

With the growing Internet of Things (IoT) landscape and the development of new tools in data management and analytics, it’s important to take a step back and retrain agencies on how to manage their own data and embrace the challenge of learning these new skills. Facilitate and promote trainings and classes for existing employees. Keep people updated and document changes. And remember that communication is key.

Finally, remind people of the benefits of data, from increased efficiency to reduced cost. “These are the kind of barriers we need to break down,” Hanna said.

“Data is the essence of our lives,” Miller explained. We generate information and build our society on the data we know already. Leveraging and improving the way agencies store and manage data will help ensure that they can continue to effectively plan for the future and meet any challenges that may come their way.

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply