In early June, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation requiring a formal commitment to data practices from the more than 20 agencies that make up his government. Now, to track their progress, the state has posted a new data report card online.
The legislation is Public Act 18-175, and it essentially requires the completion of three main objectives by 23 internal state government agencies: appointing an agency data officer within the various departments, doing an inventory of each department’s high-quality data and developing a data plan.
“For me, this was a really simple way not only to track the requirements for each of these agencies,” said Tyler Kleykamp, Connecticut’s chief data officer. “But also to show the progress in terms of implementing the law.”
The recently passed legislation sets forth an ambitious timeline for the data efforts to be completed, requiring that each agency finish its data inventory by the end of this year, then annually updating those inventories in perpetuity. Kleykamp sees the new report card as a reminder to the departments of the tasks they have remaining as well as a tool for accountability.
Some agencies are already getting high marks. Those responsible for transportation, consumer protection, agriculture, housing and education, for example, have all gotten bright green YES badges in the column for designating agency data officers — although, as Kleykamp notes, the first task is fairly simple compared to subsequent requirements.
In fact, many agencies in Connecticut — as well as in other states throughout the country — tend to have staff members already working with and managing internal data, be it in an IT capacity or in a more analytical roll. Appointing the agency data officer for departments with obvious candidates is just a formality.
The second task on Connecticut’s report card, however, is more difficult. Kleykamp compared it to the way government keeps an inventory of its most valuable equipment, including mobile phones and laptops. Those items have significant value, and so Connecticut needs an easy reference of where those items are and who’s responsible for them. That, however, doesn’t mean they inventory basic office supplies like notepads or pens.
Data is the same way. While the state isn’t looking to keep tabs on every last spreadsheet, it does want to know where valuable data is and who is responsible for it. Thus, the new legislative requirement. This is a fairly common practice within governments nationwide, even those that don’t codify it into law, and it’s sometimes known as a data inventory.
The legislation in Connecticut has also codified its chief data officer position, which was previously appointed by the governor. Like the other provisions in the new Connecticut law, this one is fairly common and also spreading among jurisdictions.
States ranging from Indiana to Maryland and New Jersey have passed legislation with various open data requirements. In fact, Connecticut wasn’t even the only state last month to pass new data laws, with Virginia’s governor signing a bill to create a chief data officer for the first time.
Data-driven governance efforts at the state level have become so common, in fact, that Kleykamp and his colleagues in other state governments are currently working to develop a network of chief data officers to share ideas, feedback and industry best practices, which is something that already exists at the municipal government level. To date, the state cooperation efforts have largely taken the form of monthly conference calls between different state CDOs or those in equivalent positions, but Kleykamp said membership is growing — they’ve recently added Alabama, Arizona and Delaware — and they may soon announce a major academic partner as they continue to search for philanthropic support.
Sharing information between government agencies, which don’t compete against each other in the traditional sense, is often described as anywhere from beneficial to vital by government efficiency experts. Indeed, Kleykamp freely admits that Connecticut’s idea for its open data checklist was cribbed from the civic tech group Open Austin, which recently launched an equivalent report card for the municipal government in Texas’ capital city. Basically, he copied his report card from his neighbor and everyone is okay with that.