IBM report highlights the power of data sharing

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for more robust data sharing among agencies and levels of government. A new report from IBM highlights the challenges, opportunities and power of greater data sharing.

A new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government lays bare the great power and great challenges that governments face when trying to share data between agencies and between levels of government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some real success stories but it also emphasized the need for even more to be done to make it easier for data to be shared, analyzed and exploited.

Entitled Silo Busting, the report highlights the commonwealth of Virginia and how it rapidly deployed a dashboard of COVID-19 data pulled from multiple sources that the Old Dominion relied on to make decisions. The dashboard was created in days, which sounds incredible but also offers a significant lesson learned.

Virginia and its Chief Data Officer Carlos Rivero had spent the previous developing a safe, secure and legally compliant information sharing environment, according to the report by Jane Wiseman, CEO of the Institute for Excellence in Government and senior fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Pre-COVID, that existing framework allowed Virginia to create a data sharing platform in response to the opioid crisis in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

“The shared data platform that grew out of the opioid crisis now serves as an extensible common platform for turning data into insight, and harnesses state, local, and federal data along with private sector data sources as well,” Wiseman wrote.

Virginia is using the data sharing framework to work on issues such as justice data analysis, workforce development, overall state performance management obviously and COVID-19.

There are many other examples in the report that highlight the power of data sharing to address pressing issues.

Here are the challenges that Wiseman uncovered in her research:

  • People, process, and culture. Not technology.
  • Resistance to sharing data.
  • Data collected without a plan for use or quality.
  • Incomplete data sets.
  • Data is not digitized.
  • Lack of data standards.
  • Fears about legal authority to share.

Wiseman also identified success factors, which she broadly groups into four categories: Leadership, the Team, Process, and Data. Each category has subfactors.

For example, under Leadership, a long-term vision is key as is consistent engagement and a clear purpose. She also identifies a need for senior leaders to be seen using the data, because that shows the data is relevant and actually affects people’s lives.

The report also includes four recommendations with actions under each recommendation:

  • Create a policy and governance framework
  • Congress and the president should establish funding and capacity building to support data sharing across the government.
  • Non-profits and philanthropic sectors need to support data sharing efforts.
  • Agency managers and data leaders need to champion data sharing effort.

While there is no specific call out for actions by government contractors, there is a wealth information on the challenges and benefits of increased data sharing by government agencies. This kind of information can feed into your solutions as well as simply inform the conversations you have.

With its vivid examples, the report highlights the art of the possible.