As the importance of data to efficiency in the public sector becomes increasingly clear, one of the models for integrating new uses of it into government operations stands out. This model relies on two seemingly opposing factors: strong central leadership in setting policy and implementation accompanied by a broadly distributed ability to use the data throughout the organization.
The city of Chicago has been a pioneer of this strategy. Its Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), led by CIO Brenna Berman and with strong mayoral support, is ensuring that data use spreads throughout the city. DoIT is developing an advanced analytics platform while at the same time engaging users across departments to identify problems they can solve with better data. A recent pilot project, for example, enabled the Department of Streets and Sanitation to target rodent-baiting to areas where data predicted infestations.
And the model is spreading. In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an executive order creating a state Management and Performance Hub (MPH) to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of state government by dramatically simplifying and increasing the use of data across agencies. Through a combination of performance management tools and a robust analytics platform, MPH promises to save the state money and improve services.
Indiana's initiative certainly seems positioned to succeed. First, the effort has executive sponsorship, with the governor and his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as its driver. Second, MPH is a collaborative effort across all state agencies, coordinated by OMB and the Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) and drawing on dedicated contributors with diverse job descriptions. And third, the pool of government data is both large and largely in the right place. State CIO Paul Baltzell says his department already hosts all of the state's data in a centralized model akin to a corporation's.
According to Sara Marshall, the MPH project director for OMB, preliminary case studies by OMB and IOT are already unlocking opportunities. In one case, an agency required data originally collected by another state agency. Instead of the data flowing directly from one peer agency to another, it had to follow a circuitous path through a federal government repository and a third-party data-collection company before reaching its destination. Direct data-sharing between two agencies will cut the transaction costs that come with multiple middlemen.
Eliminating unnecessary transactions also reduces chances to corrupt data, and higher quality data enables higher quality service. "We are seeing boosted productivity from standardization and cleaning of data, and also from new technology purchases," says Marshall. "For example, a complex query that takes ten minutes on an SQL server takes less than one second on our new in-memory computing platform." With the ability to complete complex queries dramatically faster, MPH will allow for uninterrupted workflows and increased productivity.
Led by Baltzell and OMB Director Chris Atkins, Indiana is carefully developing a range of ways for agencies to benefit from this new and robust in-house analytics capacity. For example, machine learning can make the state's address correction system more effective and less expensive. And real-time data about deaths due to drug abuse could help state police respond to evolving situations.
The MPH website launches this month, and the hub itself is on track to be up and running by this fall. With the launch of MPH and strong central leadership, Indiana stands to become a model for other governments looking to embed data throughout their operations and tap the power of data analytics to save money and transform service delivery.