The State of Data Innovation

The Center for Data Innovation (CDI) think tank recently published an 85-page report, “The Best States for Data Innovation.” Though Washington D.C. is the home base for CDI, it is not counted among the 50 states and so was not ranked. The top five states for data innovation are identified as Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, California and Delaware.

The report concedes that certain states have the advantage of “preexisting characteristics” that make them more likely to be a hub for data innovation, including the presence of top-ranked universities. That would fit with the comparison some have drawn between the data and the oil industry. The report draws this crucial distinction: The presence of oil in an area is central to its building on that industry, but the data industry is open to any state that actively promotes its advancement.

Consequently, even the states that have a kind of head start have to take “proactive steps.” Those includes thing like “supporting STEM in public schools, investing in e-government, implementing robust open-data policies, and promoting the deployment of health-information technology.” These are the kinds of things that will attract the businesses and individuals who value data-driven innovation and so build up a state’s economy.

Three critical areas

To assess state rankings, the report applied 25 indicators pertaining to three larger categories essential to the advance of innovation driven by data:

• Data: the extent to which key datasets are available, including data about the government, education, health care, and energy

• Technology: the availability of key digital infrastructure, such as broadband, smart meters, and electronic health records

• People and companies: human and business resources, such as the number of open-data companies in the state, and the size of the data professional community

One example of how increasing access to data can benefit just about anyone is health care price transparency. The report cites data from West Health that proposes that a $100 billion reduction in health care costs over a decade would result from greater health care transparency. One state that the report commends for taking such action is New Hampshire, for providing its residents with the data on the cost of procedures and of insurance coverage on the NH HealthCost site.

Certainly, that kind of data transparency is very useful and empowers people to make informed choices. As increasing data transparency enables people to make better decisions, it is something that states should be promoting for the benefit of both individuals and businesses in the area. For states that wish to do better, the report offers concrete recommendations.

Recommendations for promoting data

They include the following:

• Publish legislative data in open and machine-readable formats.

• Publish checkbook-level government financial data online in open and machine-readable formats.

• Develop an open-data portal and statewide open-data policy.

• Develop a publicly accessible all-payer claims database (APDC).

• Promote the adoption of e-prescribing for controlled substances, such as through legislative requirements or incentive programs.

• Pass anti-SLAPP legislation.

• Create a statewide e-government strategy, which includes consideration of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, and work with municipal governments to drive egovernment adoption.

The groundwork

Aside from the concrete directives, the report suggests that the government agencies ‘lead by example” in being open about their own data. Smart city initiatives that increase broadband access, set up smart transport systems, and distribute sensors to measure and monitor energy consumption are also recommended.

In planning for the future, education is also of primary importance. That’s why “digital literacy” has to become a major priority, and education that equips people with the skills to contribute to data-driven innovation has to begin not just in college or high school but with a focus on math and computer science in primary school for students to build on to become “the highly skilled workforce needed to participate in the data economy.”

The states that plan for that now will be laying the groundwork needed for residents and businesses to thrive in that data economy future.

 Ariella Brown