The federal government recently published an initial draft of a data strategy, and, in response, the State Chief Data Officer (CDO) Network has now offered a set of recommendations for continuing to develop that strategy moving forward.
Connecticut CDO Tyler Kleykamp is the chair and spokesman for the fledgling State CDO Network, which formally coalesced earlier this year and consists of top data execs from 14 different states, ranging from Alabama to Vermont. Kleykamp said the group was independently developing a series of general recommendations for how the federal government should approach data when the draft for the strategy came out. “As we were working on that, they announced this initial draft of the federal strategy, and they announced that they were seeking input,” Kleykamp said. “One of the things we would have originally recommended is that there needs to be a federal data strategy.” As a result, the state data officers invited representatives from the Office of Management and Budget — which oversees much of the gov tech and data work at the federal level — onto one of its monthly phone calls to give a presentation about the federal data strategy. Part of that presentation involved requesting feedback, so the state CDOs set about drafting a letter that provided just that, passing several iterations between them as they formalized the document. In general, the state CDOs were laudatory of the federal move to establish an overarching strategy. They did, however, note that much of the data used by the federal government is collected and provided by agencies at the state and local levels, and as such, those agencies should have a significant role in helping to form the federal data approach. In fact, the first item on the State CDOs input letter was that the feds formally acknowledge the relationship their data work has with actors at the state and local levels. Other feedback included refining the use cases for education and health to, among other things, emphasize the importance of using data to combat the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis. In terms of directly actionable items, the state CDOs also requested that the federal government “harmonizes the current landscape of confusing and conflicting privacy regulations and establishes clear and consistent guidance aligned to various federal laws governing the use of protected data as it relates to the evaluations/audits of programs and delivery of services.” The lack of clearly established privacy regulations as it relates to data collection has been a topic of much discussion at the lower levels of government. In lieu of a formal approach, many experts say data privacy is often governed by the individual preferences of communities. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have been left to lead by example in this area.