Data organization and validation strategies

Creating standard data architectures is especially difficult for state and local governments that have been collecting information in various forms for decades or in some cases, even centuries, said Vivek Kundra, chief technology officer of the District of Columbia.
“A situation like that can’t be solved with a Big Bang approach,” he said.

Instead, governments need to first develop an electronic information infrastructure by scanning important paper documents and then organizing all digital information within a content management system.

The payoff for well-organized, electronic data comes when governments add a business intelligence layer, which can provide real-time trend summaries to potentially enhance public safety and improve customer service, Kundra said.

“If we have data on crime rates and on where police cruisers are positioned, we can look for correlations and mobilize officers based on real-time information,” he said. “Then government doesn’t have to be reactive anymore when something has gone wrong. We can get ahead of problems.”

One key to making data interoperable is to make certain employees enter data correctly into state records initially. Products are now available to match new address entries to U.S. Postal Service databases. Data-entry employees see whether they are capturing valid street names and numbers or whether an apartment number or other detail should be included for a particular location.

For example, QAS sells a search engine and a copy of the USPS Zip Plus 4 Product File, a database of nationwide delivery. The software doesn’t validate name and address combinations, so if a constituent intentionally provides a false address, the system typically won’t uncover it. But the application does scan address entries for accuracy and forces users to enter information in a consistent format specified by managers.

Data verification products can be one component of a larger architectural strategy, said Joel Curry, QAS’ chief operating officer. “When you have [accurate] data streaming in, it becomes easy to manipulate and mine it for greater benefits among different state departments.”

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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