Group advocates data-driven policy-making

Center for American Progress report

Officials at a Washington-based think tank advocate a data-driven approach to policy-making, which they prescribe as an antidote to government by "cronyism, increased secrecy and special-interest influence."

John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and now president and chief executive of the Center for American Progress, said the federal government has drifted too far from good government principles. The center released a report today –“Governing by the Numbers: The Promise of Data-Driven Policymaking in the Information Age” -- that advocates using information technology to revolutionize government decision-making and problem-solving.

Imagine being able to pinpoint environmental hazards in real time at the neighborhood level, draw detailed comparisons among health care providers or measure the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs across school districts, said Reece Rushing, the center's director of regulatory and information policy and a co-author of the report.

“Data like this would enable us to zero in on our biggest problems and expand top-performing approaches while dramatically improving transparency and accountability,” Rushing said.

As evidence of the benefits of data-driven government, the report highlights a Baltimore program called CitiStat that the city implemented after then-mayor Martin O’Malley took office in 1999. That program is credited with saving the city $350 million and improving city services.

Baltimore now uses CityStat to manage all of its programs and services, and at least 11 other cities, including the District of Columbia, have copied the program.

O'Malley, now Maryland's governor, recently signed legislation to implement a program called StateStat. He said he expects to use it to monitor the performance of state agencies.

Washington is one state that has adopted the CitiStat approach to measure the effectiveness of its performance in certain areas.

The two authors of the report, Rushing and Yale University professor Daniel Esty, wrote that implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002 has focused mainly on increasing citizen interaction with the government.

“We still lack a broader vision to deploy information technologies for more effective policy-making,” they wrote. “The first step towards data-driven decision-making, then, is to recognize the tremendous opportunity that now exists to rethink and reshape our approach to governing.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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