Jan 10 2022
Data Analytics

How Can State and Local Agencies Enhance Their Use of Data Analytics?

A recent survey of state and local government IT leaders indicates they need workforce training, better data management and more funding to succeed with analytics.

State and local government agencies have been busy using data analytics tools in the past few years to give citizens access to more useful data and to improve public safety and traffic conditions, among many other uses.

While state and local IT leaders see data analytics as an integral part of modern digital government, they say they are facing many hurdles to maximizing their use of analytics tools, according to a recent survey.

The survey from MeriTalk questioned 75 IT decision-makers and 75 program managers and found that while 89 percent agree that data analytics is the lifeblood of modern government, most organizations (63 percent) are still in the early or middle stages of maturing their analytics programs.

State and local leaders say they need better workforce training, better data management and increased funding to help them improve their analytics programs, according to the survey, which was sponsored by Amazon Web ServicesIntel and Pure Storage.

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The State of Government Data Analytics Programs

While 90 percent of survey respondents said their agencies have improved their use of data analytics in the past two years, 4 in 5 said “the gap between the amount of data their organization collects and the amount they are able to use for meaningful analytics continues to grow,” according to the survey.

State and local agencies are also increasingly using chief data officers to help them manage and get insights from their data. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) reported that their organization has a CDO, with the majority adding the position in the past two years.

However, only 36 percent of respondents graded their organization’s use of analytics to create meaningful information with an A.

RELATED: How can data aid states in their economic recovery? 

Still, agencies have made progress on data analytics during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the survey. The overwhelming majority of respondents (83 percent) agreed that the pandemic has “emphasized the importance of a data-driven government.”

State and local agencies have also made progress in their data management and analytics capabilities over the past two years. Fifty-three percent of respondents reported that their organizations had improved their use of data to make key decisions, 49 percent said they had improved information sharing, and 39 percent reported growing their data analytics staff and skill sets.

Additionally, 37 percent said they had developed a formal data strategy, and 33 percent said they had increased artificial intelligence availability at the edge.

EXPLORE: Minneapolis has been a pioneer in developing dynamic data dashboards.

How to Improve Data Analytics in Government

Despite these advances, 78 percent of respondents felt the amount of data their organization collects is growing faster than their ability to keep up.

State and local IT leaders said they face several significant challenges to leveraging data in a meaningful way. They include a lack of staffing/workforce expertise (41 percent), lack of data prioritization from non-IT leadership (37 percent), poor data quality (33 percent) and an inability to meaningfully combine or share information (27 percent).

Agencies’ current top data analytics priorities include improving data security (53 percent), improving their understanding of the data they already have (51 percent), increasing data quality (44 percent), identifying priority metrics or data points (43 percent) and improving transparency with citizen data collection and use (39 percent).

At the end of the survey, MeriTalk makes several recommendations for IT leaders. To close the talent gap, the report recommends that they “identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, invest in training opportunities, and increase automation to take pressure off an already overworked department.”

It also notes that “leading organizations use resources wisely — both technology and human capital — to maximize data value.”

The report further says that agencies should champion CDO appointments. “A strong CDO can help organizations forge a data-first mentality, secure essential buy-in from non-IT leadership, and make data management the priority it needs to be.”

Finally, the report says it is crucial for agencies to continue to mature their data analytics programs. “As the flood of data continues to rise, it is imperative organizations advance along the data analytics maturity model; currently most remain in the early to mid stages,” the report states. “It’s imperative to progress from information collection to optimization. If data analytics are the lifeblood of modern government, we cannot be on life support.”

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