Critical Read

White House issues policy guide for administrative data sharing

computers and globe_data sharing

What: Office of Management and Budget's Guidance for Providing and Using Administrative Data for Statistical Purposes

Why: This OMB guidance gives agencies a roadmap for leveraging certain types of data to use in developing policy and improving program outcomes. The government collects all kinds of information as a natural function of program administration that can't be released to the public as open data for privacy reasons, or to protect trade secrets. However, such administrative data can be used by government under certain conditions. The move by OMB is of a piece with President Barack Obama's management agenda, which seeks to leverage government data to improve performance and efficiency.

In her covering memo, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell suggests a few examples where government might overlay and analyze disparate datasets, including comparing veterans' health and labor market data to design programs to find employment for disabled or injured vets, or using crime reports and data on crime-prevention policies with an eye to discovering what works and what doesn't.

The detailed guidance, mostly of interest to government officials and data-policy geeks, spells out how agencies should work to overcome institutional barriers to using such data through collaboration across programs and agencies, and the responsibilities of keepers and users of administrative data in making sure that privacy rules and data integrity principles are followed. It also tasks agencies with creating their own policies for making such data more visible and accessible to potential users.

OMB also provides agencies with a standardized agreement for agencies to use when sharing data, with provisions for data security, data quality and penalties for unauthorized disclosure. The absence of such a template for data sharing among agencies was lamented in a GAO report made public just two days before the OMB guidance was released.

Verbatim: "In particular, high-quality and reliable statistics provide the foundation for the research, evaluation, and analysis that help the Federal Government understand how public needs are changing, how well Federal policy and programs are addressing those needs, and where greater progress can be achieved."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Thu, Feb 27, 2014

with an eye to discovering what works and what doesn't (and where.) Since we are interested in collect stats WHERE is a huge consideratioin. What works in Detroit (for example) may not work in LA. And the cost of thhe solution varies from place to place. Just a thought!

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