How Can States Excel in Data Innovation?

August 4, 2017 – Autumn Carter


A recent Center for Data Innovation report, “The Best States for Data Innovation,” seeks to identify the best and worst states for data innovation. The report makes it clear that digital technology transformations have delivered the “data economy,” defined as “an economy where success depends on how effectively firms can leverage data to generate insights and unlock value.”

As the report indicates, both private- and public-sector organizations have the potential to leverage data to drive innovation and create both economic and social value. “Better use of data will be a crucial driver of economic and societal progress in the coming decades,” it stated. The researchers' results and recommendations were based on 25 indicators across three categories:

  • Data Availability (e.g. government, financial, education, etc.)
  • Digital Infrastructure Availability (e.g. broadband, open data portals, etc.)
  • People and Private-Sector Resources (e.g. open data companies, STEM professionals, etc.)

Along those lines, it included the following three recommendations for state policymakers:

1. Improve Data Availability

Takeaway: “States should take steps to guarantee that data is available for use, such as by ensuring government agencies collect and release high-value datasets.”

Improving access to financial and non-financial data internally and externally ensures that state governments can operate with greater accountability and effectiveness. For instance, publicly available financial transparency portals provide citizens and journalists with insights into how the government is performing. Furthermore, governments can unlock data trapped in legacy systems and make it more useful internally by adopting streamlined reporting solutions.

Excerpt: “State governments establish online portals to report government budget information, so that citizens can identify how state funds are spent. This information is useful for citizens with an interest in government and oversight because, with proper mechanisms for participation, transparency can foster accountability in public officials.12 Financial-data portals also benefit the state itself: Detailed, open records of expenditures often beget more efficient spending.”

See Also: The Administrator’s to Financial Transparency (Free eBook)

2. Invest in Digital Infrastructure

Takeaway: “States should enable the deployment of the technology platforms that underpin success in the data economy.”

Digital infrastructure serves as the underlying foundation upon which digital solutions and applications are built. They are fundamental and enable different products to use them, creating a multiplier effect. A highway facilitates the movement of many vehicles each day, and a variety of airlines arrive and depart from a single airport. Similarly, technology platforms such as next generation open data portals constitute infrastructure that can power a variety of use cases – data applications, transparency initiatives, business analyses, and the Internet of Things.

Excerpt: “Open data portals are the front door to state government datasets. Open data portals allow users to explore and download thousands of government datasets across a wide array of topics, such as agriculture, education, and the economy…Open data portals are often established as part of a state’s open data policy. These policies encourage government transparency and accountability, public participation, and innovation by guaranteeing access to wide varieties of public information in an open and machine-readable format.”

See Also: Discovering Next Generation Open Data (Free eBook)

3. Cultivating People and Private-Sector Resources

Takeaway: “State economic development efforts should include a focus on the data economy and helping transform existing industries to make better use of data.”

The public sector will benefit from an economy that is equipped to support its endeavors by building the technology it needs to meet today’s complex challenges. It will also benefit from a vibrant local talent pool that will produce its future internal and external workforces. We know the nature of public administration has already evolved substantially over the last few decades. As technology and communication costs decline, the pace of technological advancement is projected to increase. Focusing on developing an environment that can produce prepared talent and innovation will bear substantial benefits for communities.

Excerpt: “…Data-driven innovation is often a team effort, and data workers are likely to have an impact, learn from peers, and find a supportive culture in states where there are businesses and professional organizations committed to this field.”

See Also: The Digital Transformation of Public Administration (Free eBook)

Innovation is Increasingly Necessary

Today’s governments are expected to tackle more complex challenges – often with fewer resources. Embracing technology will offer a critical opportunity for those entities to innovate and do more with less. But doing so will require the systems and people necessary to make that a reality. Improving data availability, investing in data infrastructure, and cultivating both people and private-sector resources will drive the innovation necessary for more effective and accountable government in the 21st century.

Explore these additional resources to learn more about the specific challenges and opportunities public sector organizations face.