Breaking ground in data warehousing
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jan 24, 2001
The Iowa state government hopes to create a data warehousing system that
the judicial, legislative and executive branches could mine for information
to help them make better decisions.
The initiative started more than a year ago when three agencies — the
Department of Revenue and Finance, the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning
division and the Department of Human Services — sent out requests for proposals
for a data warehousing platform.
Instead of three separate contracts, Iowa Chief Information Officer
Richard Varn's Information Technology Department persuaded the agencies
to agree on a single platform. Since then, about 30 other agencies — including
the corrections, natural resources, public safety and health departments
— have either provided selected databases or will participate, project manager
Linda Plazak said.
"We're going to build out iteration by iteration," she said.
Data warehouses contain enormous amounts of information and are used
to quickly set up elaborate queries and searches.
Iowa is using a scalable NCR Corp. platform with relational database
software installed by Bull Worldwide Information Systems. According to the
project proposal, hardware, training, professional services and other costs
total about $2.3 million.
Plazak said each agency is responsible for hiring a vendor to model
its database. Starting from scratch, it cost the state's justice department
$400,000 to $500,000. But the costs drop for successive participating agencies
because all they have to do is replicate the initial model, she said. The
corrections department, for example, spent about $70,000.
Iowa's initiative is unique because it involves agencies from all three
branches of government. In state government, agencies usually set up their
own separate data warehouses.
"We can't find any other state that has gotten all its people under
the same platform," Varn said.
Such a platform would be beneficial to agencies, the courts and lawmakers.
For example, projecting jail and prison capacity or detecting fraud and
abuse in Medicaid or welfare programs could help lawmakers make better policies
and laws, officials said.
"Already we've been able to answer questions that were unanswerable
before," Plazak said.