Data Is a Big Deal for NASCIO Day One

Officials convene in Salt Lake City to share best practices in innovation, smart technology, cybersecurity and data analytics.

by , / October 12, 2015
Noelle Knell

The 2015 NASCIO Annual Conference kicked off this week in Salt Lake City with representatives from 47 states and two territories, including almost 40 state CIOs. More than 650 total attendees are expected for the four-day conference, where smart technology and data analytics ranked high on the agenda. Here are some highlights from Monday, October 12.

SMART CITIES, SMART STATES?

Sensors and intelligent infrastructure get most of the attention, but the move toward smart government is really a colossal information management challenge. That was one conclusion of a state and local panel on the evolution of smart government initiatives.

“There will be a flood of data coming in,” said Bill Haight, CIO of Salt Lake City, during the Monday panel. ”So this is much more about managing and interpreting that new data and condensing it down into a product that can be used to make decisions.”

Panelists added that there will be an important interplay between states and cities as smart initiatives roll out. Both have a direct opportunity to improve government services by harnessing data for better decision-making. But states also will influence city activities through policy-making.

“What states do will impact smart cities through regulatory action on broadband, education policy and other areas,” said Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt.

DATA IS FOR KIDS

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams offered a compelling example of the power of data to improve the lives of citizens and make government more efficient. Low-income kids, he explained, typically enter kindergarten knowing just 300 to 400 words, compared to about 1,100 words for average incoming students. County data showed that the gap never closes for most low-income children, leading to years of remedial education at an annual cost of $2,500 per child.

A year of preschool education, however, evens the score. In Salt Lake County, a pilot put 110 children through a year of preschool -- at a one-time cost of $2,700 per student -- closing the word gap and keeping all but one of those kids out of remedial education. A social impact bond from Goldman Sachs covered the preschool costs, and is expected to reap an ROI of 5 percent to 7 percent based on the projected savings from remedial education that will no longer be needed.

“Harnessing data can help us better understand the work that we do,” McAdams said. "We can understand what works and take those programs to scale.”

FOLLOW THE LEADER

Indiana, North Carolina and Michigan were held up as examples of successful state data analytics pioneers, and others hoped to learn from their experiences. North Carolina Government Data Analytics Center Director John Correllus offered this advice to those looking to get started: “Start small and think enterprise.”

Echoed by fellow panelists Eric Swanson, director of Michigan’s Center for Shared Solutions and Technology Partnerships, and Indiana CIO Dewand Neely, Correllus suggested snagging some high-impact quick successes to win over skeptics, while slowly building support for larger efforts. “I can get the heavy lift back-end stuff paid for with the shiny object on the front end,” Swanson said.

In North Carolina, the Department of Revenue offered the chance to use data to root out abuse, waste and fraud in tax programs. Results included a dramatic increase in fraud-related indictments, as well as savings to the state of more than $1 million.

RELAUNCHING FLORIDA'S ENTERPRISE IT AGENCY

Last year’s launch of Florida’s Agency for State Technology (AST) marks the third incarnation of a state technology office in Florida since 2005. We took some time out from the NASCIO sessions to talk with Florida CIO Jason Allison about how he's re-establishing the state's enterprise IT office. Among other things, Allison's new agency is conducting an education campaign aimed at its agency customers and helping them build the business case for new technology investments.

Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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.