Continuing the Federal Data Strategy is a Must-Do for the Next Administration

Federal Open Data

Continuing the Federal Data Strategy is a Must-Do for the Next Administration

Last week, the Data Coalition and the Data Foundation co-hosted an open forum on the Federal Data Strategy, which is entering its second year. The 10-year strategy seeks to fully leverage the value of federal data by guiding the Federal government in practicing ethical governance, management, and use. 

This was a unique opportunity for non-federal stakeholders in the community to add their input to the incredible work done by career civil servants. More than 35 representatives across 8 panels gathered to share their perspectives and expertise on the best way forward in Year 2. 

Widespread support of a data strategy emerged as the predominant theme throughout the day. Stakeholders all agreed that this is important and vital work to good governance and that the data strategy must continue as we transition into a new administration.

But that enthusiasm was paired with the acknowledgment of the very real challenges in our data infrastructure. Many speakers offered recommendations to address the ways in which our current data systems have failed to help us address the current public health and economic crises, including insufficient access, data silos, and poor standards. This also underlined a sense of urgency that was woven throughout the day.  

Speakers stressed the need for resources in order to help build a government-wide data system that can meet societal needs. In addition to the appropriate funding for these activities, speakers often suggested guidance and toolkits – practical, on-the-ground information – be made available to agencies as they work towards implementing new legal and regulatory requirements. 

And finally, the feedback made clear that government cannot do this on its own, but that stakeholders from all sectors are ready and eager to help make the federal data strategy a success. As the administration transitions, it is clear that a federal data strategy is a valuable activity and will help build a strong framework for evidence-based policymaking.

In addition to these high-level themes, speakers offered some concrete actions, which focused on the need to consider equity and inclusion, the importance of sharing data in a way that protects and respects privacy, and prioritizes transparency and openness. 

To learn more about what these expert stakeholders offered, the forum is available to watch here. 

Key Recommendations 

On the need for organizational culture and diversity:

  • Decisions made with biased data lead to biased outcomes. ensure fairness and equity by examining data collection, as well as improved transparency and accountability, as well as community engagement. 
  • Advocate for increased investment in deliberative engagement processes. 
  • Continue to focus on actions that seek to diversify data governance bodies and increase staff data capacity.

On Data Maturity:

  • Maturity models may need to be tailored to individual agency needs, and they will need guidance on how to implement the right model. 

On Data Governance:

  • Complete and up-to-date data inventories are essential to successfully implementing further actions in the Data Strategy.

On Transparency and Openness:

  • Prioritize working with the federal statistical agencies and federal data research centers to ensure only those users who understand the data and pass a clearance process such as background checks or trainings have access to it.
  • Increase transparency on progress on the 2021 Action Plan. Require agencies to make public and centrally available their progress on the action plan. 

On Public Health Data:

  • Speed up the process for improving sharing by creating a high impact demonstration project that involves multiple agencies that highlights the value of improved data sharing, such as improved data standards and sharing in morbidity and mortality data in times of national emergencies.

On Data Access and intergovernmental cooperation:

  • Make the federal Chief Data Officer Council responsible for creating consistent and well-understood data sharing agreement template or toolkit, with the goal of engendering trust in an open data environment.