Data-driven department to get chief data officer

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Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker used the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference to unveil several new initiatives underway at the department, including plans to join the handful of federal agencies with a chief data officer.

The new chief data officer will "pull together a platform for all data sets; instigate and oversee improvements in data collection and dissemination; and ensure that data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic," according to a department statement.

A report released this week by the department, "Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data," claims government data helps private firms generate revenues of at least $24 billion annually, at a cost to the government of $3.7 billion to collect and process the data.

The Commerce CDO will be tasked with decreasing the cost of managing that data and increasing the value of it.

In addition, the CDO will manage the department’s open government data efforts, and improve how Commerce manages and publishes data, as well as how it measures the data quality, access and usage.

According to the Department, an ideal candidate is someone with proven leadership and management experience who understands government data and resources, can represent the department in public interactions with private sector innovators, and can serve as a strong champion of action within the department.

The Federal Communications Commission was one of the first agencies to hire a chief data officer. Greg Elin served in the role for three years and was succeeded by Charles Aaron, who is on detail to FCC and is in charge of enterprise architecture and data integration.

David Bray, CIO at FCC said the best people to fill CDO roles are those who are both detail-oriented and people-focused.

"You have to know the details of your data, its level of quality, and its context -- and you have to know what data the people in your organization, partner organizations, and in the public find valuable," Bray said.

The Federal Reserve Board and National Institutes of Health are among the small but growing number of agencies employing chief data officers.

Commerce also announced this week the creation of its first ever Data Advisory Council, made up of 15 private-sector leaders to advise the department on data matters.

The council's main focus will be on the accessibility and usability of Commerce data, as well as the transformation of the department’s supporting infrastructure and procedures for managing data. The advisory council will be housed within the Economic and Statistics Administration.

Pritzker also announced the launch of the International Trade Administration's "Developer Portal," be an online toolkit that puts trade and investments data sets in one place.

"In creating this portal, the Commerce Department is making its data public to software developers, giving them access to authoritative information on U.S. exports and international trade to help U.S. businesses export and expand their operations in overseas markets," the Commerce statement said. "The developer community will be able to integrate the data into applications and mashups to help U.S. business owners compete abroad while also creating more jobs here at home."

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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