Political Opponents Find Common Ground With DATA Act

Potentially Transformative As It Breaks Down Silos & Improves Transparency.

The next time someone at the neighborhood BBQ suggests the U.S. can solve its fiscal woes by cutting foreign aid, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. suggests reminding them foreign aid represents about 1 percent of the country’s overall budget. In other words, a rounding error.

Speaking at the June 29 DATA Act Summit, Connolly expressed hope that by making spending data—such as a foreign aid—easily accessible at USASpending.gov, citizens will gain trust in their government. This improved transparency can hopefully reverse a decline of citizen trust that dates back to the Vietnam War, Connolly added. Although they agree on little politically, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., expressed the same hope and confidence on what a more transparent government can produce, as did Sen. Robert Portman, R-Ohio.

The DATA Act was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in May 2014, and required federal agencies to report their spending data in a standardized format. Agencies were mandated to meet a long list of timelines along the way. By early May 2017, the spending data from agencies had to be in compliance with these standards, which would feed into a new website that remains in beta.

If data is the raw material, then actionable intelligence is the finished product. And that’s where the private sector companies who exhibited at the DATA Act Summit come into focus. Exhibitors included established firms like LexisNexis to venture backed startups like data.world. Each of the companies offered their government clients and prospects solutions that enable agencies to more easily access and quickly analyze data, which in turn, will lead to more informed decision-making.

LexisNexis holds a long and impressive track record of helping government—on all levels—turn data into valuable information that helps officials make better decisions and potentially find new revenue. LN helps agencies analyze data across seemingly disparate databases to determine fraudulent behavior, confirm identities and often uncover revenue opportunities. 

For example, using the LexisNexis Risk Solutions in Sarasota County, Florida., LN enabled officials to identify almost $76 million of incremental taxable value. This solution mined public records with LN’s proprietary “identity analytics technology and the investigative capabilities of (partner) Tax Management Associations (TMA), [to enable officials] to detect erroneous and fraudulent filings, collect taxes resulting from these filings and identify new sources of revenue.”

In an exhibit corridor filled with creative solutions built atop of data, data.world may capture the award for the most creative. This venture-back startup is a public benefit corporation, which means it applies as much emphasis on a greater good as it does serving its shareholders. 

CEO and co-founder Brett Hurt observed data remains largely unlinked despite living in a networked world. As a result, too much time is spent searching and refining data and not analyzing it. Data.world, which already partners with the Census Bureau, utilizes social and collaborative tools to more easily and quickly analyze open data. 

An example is found here where a researcher sought “to look for relationships between socioeconomic status and cancer by way of combining data from disparate open sources.” Hurt, involved in numerous and successful venture-backed startups, calls data.world his “most ambitious.”

Is data the new oil as is often claimed? Let’s see. Data starts off crude, is mined, refined, then enables businesses—and government—to thrive. The answer has to be “yes!"