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The Transformational Power of Data

Government has been in the data collection business for a long time. But, data collection is only one piece of the puzzle. Data analytics is the other piece. With analytics, data has the power to be transformational. Analytics can impact social innovation, policy implementation, and even the workforce.

On 10 March 2016 FedScoop and Hitachi Data Systems Federal hosted and presented an event in DC, Social Innovation Summit, which invited data pioneers and experts alike to discuss government’s social innovation.

“Social innovation integrates data for a safer, smarter, and healthier society,” Peter Sjoberg, VP and CTO at Hitachi Data Systems, said.

But how can we go about achieving a safer, smarter, and healthier society through data?

Realizing that there are costs associated with storage and storage growth, it is important to know what you need data for. Sjoberg recommended you ask yourself: How long do I want to preserve the data? Is there a policy in place that dictates this? In other words, you need to know the overarching mission in order to achieve success with a certain dataset.

However, in some cases, decisions need to be made quickly. Margie Graves, Principal Deputy CIO at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), uses data in crises all the time. Unfortunately, DHS must pull from multiple sources, which requires sifting through various data sets to ensure it complies with DHS’ data framework. “The framework is crucial as it provides an umbrella on how we can create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for information sharing.”

From there, you need to know your stakeholders and what degree of privacy the data requires. In some instances, personal data may become part of an archival collection. Leslie Johnston, Director of Digital Preservation at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is in charge of preserving the work of the federal government. “I have to make sure the data is safe as we deal with data that is supposed to survive the life of the republic,” Johnston stated. These cases, therefore, inherently involve a number of stakeholders. They bring varying levels of stakes and input to the table and you have to be able to come to a consensus, Graves pointed out. Which is why she calls for constant attention to privacy. “You have to bring in your privacy officers early and often,” Graves said.

There are already real-world case studies that demonstrate how data analytics are playing a part in government. Ann Dunkin, CIO at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), talked about how her agency is utilizing data from crowdsourcing and is turning it into customized content. Since, sensors are at a low-cost, the EPA can bring data from various media programs or crowd-source from states and tribes. EPA’s Village Green Project puts sensors on park benches to monitor the air quality in the community.

Another example of transformational data comes from Lt. Col. Mark Mellott, Chief Research & Development Officer for Health IT at the Defense Health Agency. He shared his role in helping further the mission of our servicemen and women through proper data analytics. Good data is necessary for him to make accurate acquisition purchases. It helps “manage risk. The right information needs to go to leadership to make timely decisions,” Lt. Col. Mellott said.

We use data for virtually anything and everything. Data can be transformational and it can better lives-even save them.

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