Jan 10 2019

How States Benefit from Appointing a Chief Data Officer

More states have appointed CDOs, assigning responsibility for integrating data to improve government services to a single individual capable of making a difference.

How do you read the news every day? Most of the time, it’s probably with a desktop computer, or on the go with a laptop or mobile device. 

When that device was first purchased by your employer, someone likely affixed it with an asset tag or barcode and inventoried it. Look around and you might find that your chair or desk also has a tag so that it can be inventoried. In fact, the more valuable the asset is, the more likely it is to be inventoried

We maintain inventories of these valuable physical assets, but we rarely do so for an equally valuable intangible asset: data

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how cities can improve open data programs. 

Why Data Is a Strategic Asset for State Governments 

Data is a strategic asset. If it were missing or unavailable, it would severely limit the ability of government to function. Additionally, data has the ability to help government to deliver the types of services expected by the public, to create more effective policy and to operate more efficiently. This is why many governments benefit from having chief data officers.

How many of us have an inventory of our data? How many of us know how it’s used? Where it comes from? How secure it must be? We know this about our facilities, our equipment, our vehicles and even our software and applications. We know this information about many of our collected physical assets, yet we seldom know as much about the data we collect in government. 

Tyler Kleykamp, Chief Data Officer, Connecticut
Data is a strategic asset. If it were missing or unavailable, it would severely limit the ability of government to function."

Tyler Kleykamp Chief Data Officer, Connecticut

Data has been compared to many things recently, including oil, water and even ambulances. What makes data unique, and these comparisons flawed, is that the more we use data and the greater the abundance of data, the more value it generates. A vehicle’s value depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot, and oil’s value depreciates as its supply increases. Data, however, follows an opposite trend, and for governments to effectively leverage its value, we must treat and manage data accordingly.

A CDO is responsible for an organization’s enterprisewide data and information strategy. This should include governance, quality, policy development, analytics and other efforts to create value from data. While some may argue this responsibility belongs to a CIO, hiring an individual whose sole purpose is to focus on data strategy is key to delivering real value. It is important to ensure that government’s data receives the same care as any other valuable asset.

Data Helps States Improve Citizen Services 

There are clear benefits for governments that have established CDO positions. In Connecticut, we have created more efficient permitting processes by allowing local governments to consume occupational licensing data directly, via an application programming interface. Our cities and towns may verify the license of an individual to do work without additional paperwork. 

We’re also making strides in confronting the national opioid crisis. Using overdose data, the private sector generated a model that predicts the likelihood of overdoses, allowing first responders and hospitals to prepare. In addition, by integrating data from our criminal justice system with overdose data, we learned that 50 percent of individuals who died of a drug overdose were formerly incarcerated. This knowledge enables us improve support for those re-entering society to prevent overdoses.

Finally, through advanced analytics, we’re able to better identify and detect fraud within our major assistance programs, such as Medicaid, recouping millions in taxpayer dollars. Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub, led by the state’s CDO, integrates data from several agencies to build custom analytics solutions. They’re tackling issues ranging from car crashes and infant mortality to Medicaid optimization. In Texas, when Hurricane Harvey battered the state in 2017, the government shared data on affected areas in real time to support first responders, law enforcement and others assisting the state’s response. 

The examples and benefits across state government continue to grow, and more states and cities continue establishing CDO roles. For government, the question should no longer be whether you’ll consider hiring a CDO, but why you don’t have one already.


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