Bigger Data and Smaller Dollars

Dollars may be short, but data is everywhere.

by / January 14, 2015

Indiana has one of the nation’s worst infant mortality rates. So, earlier this year, reducing the number of Indiana infants who die before reaching their first birthday became the initial goal of a statewide data analytics effort.

Indiana began crunching billions of rows of data from multiple departments and programs to identify root causes of the problem and improve outcomes for infants and children in the state. The initiative is backed by an executive order from Gov. Mike Pence compelling agencies to share data with Indiana’s Office of Technology and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The data is fed into sophisticated analytics software running in a newly created Management and Performance Hub situated in the basement of the state Capitol.

As this issue of Government Technology went to press, Indiana officials were preparing to release formal findings from the initiative. Speaking at an industry event a few months ago, Indiana OMB Director Chris Atkins said the project has uncovered distinct at-risk populations and risk profiles. Those insights were helping officials target program resources more effectively. The state, he added, is creating dashboards that will let managers drill down and manipulate data using a variety of filters.

Ultimately the plan is to equip child welfare caseworkers with mobile analytics tools that will help them assess the risk for specific cases and determine the most effective course of action, said state CIO Paul Baltzell in an interview earlier this year. He also expected the analytics effort to expand to other areas like improving the safety of older children and fighting recidivism.

Analytics is one way technology is improving the health and welfare of our communities — which is the focus of this month’s issue — and we expect this sort of “big data” to become a more common and more powerful tool for HHS programs in the future. With states and localities searching for ways to contain costs and improve the performance of these programs, using analytics to make better decisions offers a compelling proposition.

As Atkins pointed out, revenue growth is flat for most governments, but the amount of data available to them is expanding exponentially. Indiana is intent on putting that growing resource to work, as are an increasing number of other government organizations.

“We have a billion megabytes of data. We need to use it effectively,” he said. “That’s where our biggest opportunity lies.” 

Steve Towns

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.