Iowa digs for data gold

Iowa 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 Division of Criminal and Juvenile

Justice Planning 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 staff 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.

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. 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 justice department $400,000

to $500,000. But the costs drop for other agencies because all they have

to do is replicate the initial model. 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 data warehouses.

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