Posted at 5:24 PM
As Colin Parris, Vice President of Software Research at General Electric, reflected on his participation in the inaugural Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC) he said, “I think CDAC can achieve (things) that could be monumental towards the growth of data in the U.S. and the relevance of the U.S. as a data power.” However at first, he was doubtful about the potential benefit of a government-held council on open data. Having worked with data over the years, Colin knows how important data is for modern products to function. Despite reservations, he listened to colleagues at GE who encouraged him to apply to be a Member of the inaugural Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC). Colin was accepted and joined its first-ever public meeting last week.
The CDAC is unique. There is no other group that gathers such a high caliber group of data technology leaders from the private sector, non-profits, research institutions, and government organizations. The goal of the CDAC is to advise the Department of Commerce (DOC) on the enhancement of its data accessibility and usage. In Colin’s words, the CDAC should work “To find ways to improve social benefit, but also economic and financial benefit, generating more jobs.”
The CDAC’s public meeting had opening remarks from the Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, a round of “Ignite Talks” from some of the Department’s most innovative projects, large group and big group discussions, presentations from industry experts, and structured conversations about what this group should achieve in the near-term and long-term. For example, the group reached consensus on an initial set of recommendations that the Department of Commerce should consider. These included (in no particular order):
- Improve access to raw data.
- Leverage private sector assets to improve data quality such as through an integrated marketplace.
- Incentivize better response rates to current data collection methods such as rewards for surveys.
- Build the “data muscle” by deploying new relevant pilot projects that can more quickly solve present day problems.
- Spur and improve the ecosystem around the Department of Commerce’s data by engaging with customer communities and improving access to relevant data.
- Focus on a big problem, a mission-oriented problem as a means to drive data-driven decision-making in to the Department of Commerce’s DNA.
- Improve feedback loops to data’s customers.
- Refine the outcome measures for data’s return-on-investment to be more aligned towards outcomes (e.g. job creation) and latency (e.g. improving the time before certain data sets become available to public).
- Accelerate the ‘open by default’ Presidential Executive Order.
- Do more data education internally and with customers.
The details behind these recommendations are already being evaluated by the data leaders at the Department of Commerce. Like every large business services organization, the Department has very diverse customers and therefore extremely diverse data assets. The CDAC’s next challenge will be to flesh out these recommendations. In collaboration with the 12 Commerce Bureaus, that include historic organizations like the Census Bureau and the Patent & Trademark Office, the CDAC will focus on how these recommendations can be effectively deployed across the Commerce enterprise.
As the two-day meeting ended, Colin added that the CDAC, “can be used to form a community, not just of government agencies, but a broad community including industry and social groups.” As for bringing the right people together, all government data customers will benefit from the fact that Colin listened to his colleagues and joined this Council.
Note: You can watch the two-day event here.