Rivers of Data at the Utah State House

David Fletcher, CTO, State of Utah | 2/6/2013 | 11 comments

David Fletcher
In a few weeks, the Utah State Capitol will transition into a beehive of activity as the annual legislative session gets underway and continues for 45 days.

Hundreds of bills will be passed during that short span, and a multi-billion dollar budget will be approved. It is a rite that occurs 50 times over in state capitals across the nation. Supporting these massive legislative endeavors are rivers of data, which arm the analysts and staff, who must be prepared to respond to questions from legislators and constituents at a moment' notice.

Governments run on data. Each time a piece of legislation is prepared, you can count on associated requests for data associated with it. There is the financial analysis that must support the rationale for the bill. A case in point was a bill passed last year to reduce the number of required motor vehicle inspections in Utah. The bill's sponsor made sure that he requested data not just about the number of annual inspections, but how many vehicles failed to pass inspection each year and the reason for failure. Data specialists quickly compiled the report, but before it could even be presented, more detail was requested. Some of the data could not be delivered because it did not exist, because current operations do not always track everything that might only be needed for future policy.

Every bill comes with its own set of data requirements and the hundreds of bills presented each legislative session cover a range of diverse topics from transportation and public safety to healthcare and education. State government IT organizations have some of the broadest set of data requirements anywhere. This includes private health data with some of the strictest protection requirements, mountains of GIS data, and a growing volume of unstructured data that is still relatively untapped.

States began to open up more of their data sources several years ago as the open data movement began to grow. Many states have created open data portals, such as data.ca.gov in California or Utah's data.utah.gov. Others are partnering with the federal government's open data portal at states.data.gov.

In 2013, you can expect many states to begin to make their data more meaningful to citizens and businesses. Dashboards and visualization efforts will make it more presentable, while the creation of user-focused APIs and apps will enhance data usability.

State-level activities are also being impacted by larger federal initiatives, such as the Education Data Initiative introduced last summer. The US Department of Education is working with data owners in state government to make education-related data available, machine-readable, and accessible, while ensuring personal privacy is protected. These kinds of targeted initiatives by the federal government heavily impact the states, even creating new governance structures for data stewardship.

As new data and new tools improve the quality of analysis and our understanding of political and social issues, you can expect even more data-related legislation and policy making. But before we get there, it is up to CIOs to make sense of a constant flow of structured and unstructured information.

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davidfletcher   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/25/2013 9:16:05 AM
Re: Apps
The Utah Legislative Tracking app is now available in Google Play and Apple App Store.  We had about 500 iOS downloads the first few days with a very positive response.  Users can track and get notifications immediately when there are status changes, something they really like. It is a big help to legislators, agency personnel, lobbyists, and interested citizens at large.
Sara Peters   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/8/2013 1:57:46 PM
Re: Apps
@David  Excellent news and congratulations! Please let us know how the new mobile app fares once it gets into the Google and Apple stores.
Sara Peters   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/8/2013 1:55:19 PM
No pressure
Reasons to cheer and reasons to groan: "As new data and new tools improve the quality of analysis and our understanding of political and social issues, you can expect even more data-related legislation and policy making. But before we get there, it is up to CIOs to make sense of a constant flow of structured and unstructured information." Thanks for the post, David. Clearly the government initiatives you mention supply the urgency that will drive CIOs (happily or unhappily) to dramatically improve their understanding of these disparate data flows. No easy task, but definitely an important one.
Salik   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/8/2013 12:44:42 AM
Re: Apps
Moreover, I have seen the payment system from Airtel flourish in India, I am certain they are handling huge data over the cellular service provider. If such a thing is embeded, I am sure it would be a great breakthrough. Looking forward to your app on Google Play.
Susan Nunziata   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/7/2013 6:56:33 PM
Re: Apps
@David: This is outstanding. Thank you for sharing your insights and your story. You and your organizatio deserve great praise for delivering transparency in government. What's next on your agenda?
davidfletcher   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/7/2013 5:19:40 PM
Re: Apps
We recently completed a new mobile app that lets users search and subscribe to any bills and receive a text or email notification when there is a change in status. It is awaiting approval and will soon be in Google Play and the Apple App Store. Should make it a lot easier to follow the bill process. You can check out our recently updated legislature site at le.utah.gov
MDMConsult   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/7/2013 8:00:41 AM
Rivers of Data at the Utah State House
@David Smart public policies with data does present opportunities. The Utah State Capitol and other States have ability now to encourage people to save more, invest better, consume more intelligently as a result of data. Make it easy for the consumer by building the right transparency model ease consumers lifestyle better.
tekedge   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/6/2013 6:39:25 PM
Re: Apps
I love the idea of the app. It will be so much more easier for a lot of us!

tekedge   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/6/2013 6:37:00 PM
Re: Data simplicity
Yeah I agree. There will be so much data that it is a good idea fo it to be streamlined and presented in such a way that it is understood and easily accessible by everybody. Sometimes the common man cannot access it because of the complexities of accessing the data, specially where government is concerned and everybody needs access to the information available.
impactnow   Rivers of Data at the Utah State House   2/6/2013 1:01:59 PM
Data simplicity

I support any efforts to make the data more accessible and understandable. So many laws and legislative initiatives are hundreds of pages that no one reads making them more data based and accessible can cut costs and streamline government operations.
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