North Carolina IT Takes Control of State Data

Now seven years old, the state's Government Data Analytics Center is entering a new phase of life.

by / October 14, 2014
North Carolina CIO Chris Estes says the expansion of the state’s Government Data Analytics Center is directly tied to the governor’s vision of making it easy to do business with state government. David Kidd/e.Republic

After several years of success with data analytics, North Carolina is now expanding and coordinating all business intelligence efforts through a central agency.

The state’s Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC), established in 2007, was moved this year from beneath the Office of the State Controller over to the Office of Information Technology Services (ITS). In a commitment to what has become a global trend, ITS will continue past data sharing and analytics efforts, and identify new opportunities to enable the state’s businesses.

In recent years, efforts to identify and combat fraud through data have popped up in municipalities like New JerseyLos AngelesIowa and South Carolina, to name just a few. Governments are realizing they have most of the information they need, but the data isn’t shared in all the places it’s needed.

North Carolina moving its GDAC under the IT office is a move toward making business intelligence and data analytics an enterprisewide effort. The state demonstrated the power of data in recent years through two programs: 

  • the North Carolina Financial Accountability and Compliance Technology System (NC FACTS), which identifies fraud and waste in areas like unemployment insurance; and
  • Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS), a data integration system that provides law enforcement personnel with access to state-owned information in their vehicles.

The General Assembly created GDAC to serve as a more coordinated effort in using the state’s data assets, and moving the center under ITS has the potential to assist all state agencies with greater access to data, said state CIO Chris Estes.

The benefit to sharing data, he added, depends on who is using the data. In the case of CJLEADS, providing officers with greater access to information about the people they encounter improved the state’s public safety efforts. In other cases, such as fraud monitoring, the involved agencies also enjoy improved service delivery, but also save money. It’s also about turning state government around and making the user experience look and feel more like Amazon’s customers' experience.

“This really ties to our governor’s vision of doing business with state government more easily,” Estes said. “It’s about customer service and the simple example of, '[If I want to conduct business with the state on my smartphone, … we need data and it makes it a lot easier if you don’t need to re-enter your name and address into five different systems.”

The main challenge in getting the state’s data analytics effort into high gear wasn't what may initially come to mind. “The private sector has been aggregating data for a decade, so the technology piece is maturing,” he said. “The bigger issue is the governance and the business processes, so the general assembly passing data sharing standards between the agencies and giving us the ability to share the data has been a big part of what we needed.”

The state has already begun several new programs through GDAC and is exploring new ways to make the most of its data. There are several state initiatives around educational data pertaining to students at all levels. The data will help the state measure performance, allowing the general assembly to make decisions about which programs should be funded more or less.

And there are additional links between other types of data, like driver’s license data and unemployment data, said GDAC Director John Correllus said. “The state invests quite a bit of money in producing data," he said, adding that by having a central agency that’s coordinating the data activities, the state is trying to invest in that data once, not duplicate it in numerous places. "So we’re leveraging the data across agencies, leveraging that data to really the highest possible value."

The state also will establish a governance committee to help align GDAC’s efforts with agency objectives, Corellus said. “We’re working with several different agencies, but we’re working to establish a type of master record,” he explained. “It could be things around making sure that we have a master file on deceased individuals that could help benefit not only things in the nature of fraud, but all agencies really need a trusted source for that data. It could be around customer records, or making sure that we know who we’re communicating with, or how we can help a citizen in North Carolina.”

This story was edited on Oct. 15 to correct the name and title of John Correllus.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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