Task force making progress with data-driven decision making initiative

by Will Gruber ([email protected]) 302 views 

In June 2019, a legislative task force committee began asking the question: Is state government most effectively utilizing its data to ensure cross-agency collaboration? The conclusion, acknowledged at its first meeting and reinforced throughout, is that perhaps it is not.

Unsurprisingly, the solution will require financial and policy commitments from both the executive and legislative branches.

During Arkansas’ 92nd General Assembly, lawmakers created the Data-Sharing and Data-Driven Decision-Making Task Force. Its primary purpose was to examine and make written recommendations — by Dec. 31, 2019 — regarding solutions, including funding, for increased agency data-sharing and the possibility of implementation of a shared services model.

The task force met monthly from June to December last year.

The testimony included the following topics: (1) centralized data hub creation, including cost, time frame and the process of collecting and using data within the data hub; (2) legal and other barriers to state agencies providing data asset inventory information; (3) financial and sociological benefits of data use; and (4) protection of both individuals’ data and the data hub from the state seeking financial gain.

The task force provided statistics for states that have used data to address public policy issues and to create significant taxpayer returns. Indiana’s chief data officer testified regarding how Indiana’s Management Performance Hub has been used to address the opioid epidemic, educational statistics and road safety. North Carolina’s Government Data Analytics Center used data to prevent fraud and identity theft.

In other examples, Georgia detected over $25 million in fraudulent tax returns over two years. New York raised tax collections by over $100 million and reduced fraudulent returns by $1.2 billion. Washington recovered more than $10 million in fraudulent tax returns.

The Arkansas task force’s final report showed the financial cost of a data hub is approximately $3.9 million annually for the first five years, then reduced to $2.8 million annually after that. However, the state could recoup its investment quickly, with even small efficiency improvements through effective data utilization.

Recommendations in the final report also included creating a statewide data hub, and legislation passed requiring agencies to negotiate and enter into data-sharing agreements with the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS). Also, agencies should engage with and receive assistance from the Arkansas Research Center.

After the conclusion of the task force on Jan. 15, the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology met. Chairman Stephen Meeks, who also serves as task force co-chair, provided an update on the group’s work and recommendations.

Meeks noted that the difficulty for the legislature to know how big of a problem cybersecurity breaches are within the government is because there is limited reporting of cybersecurity breaches within state government. The task force recommended that the executive branch create a statewide cybersecurity policy.

Another final recommendation was creating a citizens’ portal, providing for one-stop citizen access to their information possessed by the government.

Finally, as recommended by the task force, the legislature authorized the formation of a new subcommittee, allowing for the continuation of the task force’s efforts.

Discussions are occurring, and the task force is making progress in advancing data-driven decision-making and data-sharing in government. It’s still early in 2020, but it appears that the momentum will continue on this critical topic.

Editor’s note: Will Gruber is vice president of government relations and strategic partnerships for Little Rock-based public affairs firm inVeritas. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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