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Is Your Relationship With Data Helping or Hurting Innovation?

Your data has a time value, whether you’ve explicitly acknowledged it or not.

“What we’ve seen at the forefront is this concept of needing to have readily available, reliable data for critical decision-making,” said Matt Walk, Director of State/Local Government for the Eastern U.S. at Snowflake, a data platform provider.

Although states have focused on modernizing their systems for years, the pandemic created a sense of urgency. It reinforced that the stakes are much higher in terms of the ability to quickly access data to make critical decisions, Walk said.

This is especially true as states transition from responding to the pandemic to recovering from it. The success of these efforts depends on the extent to which states eliminate silos and embrace a more data-driven, enterprise-focused approach to governing.

Accessible Data Drives Holistic Problem-Solving

“As you turn from response to recovery, you’re considering all aspects of health and human services,” Walk said.

States and cities are exploring how to get people back to work and how to ensure equity and diversity drive spending decisions and policymaking.

“All of those things are dependent on having really good data that’s accessible,” Walk said. “Data has to be centralized in a way that gives states complete transparency and trust in the data.”

New Tech, Same Problems?

Cloud computing has been a game changer in supporting data accessibility and transparency. But rushing to embrace the cloud with old habits only perpetuates past problems.

Cloud alone doesn’t remove data silos, Walk said. For some states, it exacerbated existing data governance challenges. They had data residing in multiple locations.

“The problem didn’t go away by moving to the cloud,” he said. That’s why Snowflake partners with states to eliminate barriers, securely govern data and ensure the data is readily available when needed.

California’s Department of Technology is one example. Working with Snowflake, the agency developed a virtual data warehouse, or a centralized and authoritative location from which to share COVID-19 data. The department then expanded data sharing to other stakeholders, including state agencies, health partners and vaccine providers, using Snowflake’s cloud-based data marketplace.

Success Takes an Ecosystem

Innovation doesn’t mean you have to invest in all new tools, Walk said.

“We’re a huge proponent of leveraging an ecosystem,” he said. “States have suffered enough from ripping and replacing systems. Our value proposition is that we work within the ecosystem, which gives states some investment protection.”

In California, the state easily integrated its Snowflake solution with existing geographic information system software and other dashboard and analytics solutions.

“At the end of the day, states want people to be healthy, employed and educated — leading successful lives,” Walk said. “There are a lot of systems and technologies that strive to do that.” His advice to states: Stay on course, implement lessons learned, and prioritize data-driven policies and outcomes.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “Normalizing Innovation: Lessons From State & Local Leaders on the Ground.”

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

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