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Blog Post

The “Fuel” of Big Data may be Redirected Towards New Goals

By Adam Stone and Tobias Naegele

January 13, 2017

Data is the fuel on which artificial intelligence thrives. It also provides the evidence needed to drive increased efficiency in government operations and faster, more accurate intelligence in national security. Jared Kushner’s use of Facebook micro-targeting to increase sales of Trump campaign items, mentioned earlier, is a clear indication the Trump team understands the value of data-driven decisions.

The Obama administration came to Washington promising to increase government transparency and focused much of that effort on efforts to share public data, hiring the first federal chief data officer, D.J. Patil, among other initiatives. Whether that fledgling effort continues under President Trump remains an open question.

What is clear, however, is that a business-minded leader experienced in managing financials should understand the power of data to expose how well or poorly run an organization might be. He should recognize that some of the ways government data is gathered and analyzed today are no longer as accurate or reliable as they could be. Using surveys to understand employment trends is not as accurate as using payroll data. Similarly, the potential to predict crop yields with satellite or aircraft imagery, rather than by surveying farmers, promises to provide faster, more accurate projections.

Making data available to citizens quickly is also a pressing challenge. Projects like the Washington State dashboard demonstrate the potential of increased public transparency, and the president-elect has indicated an interest in making government more transparent to citizens.

The Center for Open Data Enterprise has published an Action Plan for the Next Administration, laying out 27 recommendations to help achieve greater transparency. Ideas range from hiring and empowering chief data officers at every federal agency to opening up data on some 45,000 license-free patents held by the U.S. government to spur business innovation and economic growth.

Look for the Trump administration to focus on data initiatives that yield improvements in intelligence, jobs creation and business efficiency first, with efforts focusing on transparency lagging well behind.