We are currently witnessing the emergence of government as a data-driven enterprise. Government agencies are embracing the cloud and eager to adopt AI to deliver on the mission, but there’s more to making government a data-driven enterprise than just these things. We caught up with Pure Storage’s Nick Psaki to understand how to build the foundations of a comprehensive data strategy that is scalable, affordable, and reliable.
Here’s what Nick had to say:
Government Technology Insider (GTI): What makes today’s federal government a data-driven enterprise? Just how much data do agencies accumulate?
Nick Psaki (NP): The United States Government is arguably the single largest producer of data in the world and one of the most data-driven enterprises in the world. It generates a tremendous amount of the source reference data used by many private and public organizations in our country and around the world. Whether it is Census data, climate databases, geographic images and geodetic models, the data produced by the U.S. federal government is essential information.
According to data.gov, there are currently over 210,000 data sets available for public consumption! And according to analytics.usa.gov, government websites have been visited over 6 billion times in the past three months. As to how much data the government collects, it is very difficult to quantify given the very diverse and disparate nature of the government’s various departments. The breadth and scope of the government’s data collection is astounding in terms of the volume, velocity and variety of data.
GTI: How are federal agencies using this data?
NP: The government itself uses this information to understand the best way to allocate resources, provide funding, respond to emergencies, establish appropriate representation in Congress, and all the rest of the essential functions of government. The government uses data to drive nearly everything they do, from patents, drug development and safety, revenue collection, criminal justice and policing, maritime traffic, national security operations, and of course representation in government.
GTI: What are some of the obstacles that stop them from realizing the true value of all the accumulated data?
NP: As with many organizations, U.S. Government agencies face a host of challenges to sharing their data. Some of the main ones: Isolation/segregation of the systems and data sets, confidentiality of the data, which is often mandated by law, formats of the data being unique or obsolete, or even the lack of digitized data; the Declaration of Independence was written by hand on parchment, after all, and had to be scanned and transcribed! The ability to cross reference potentially relevant or related data from disparate systems is a monumental challenge for any government, though the government has continued to pursue this across many of its agencies.
GTI: What can they do to overcome these obstacles? Do you have any examples of agencies that have overcome these obstacles and the mission success they’re able to achieve as a result?
NP: A number of different initiatives have been remarkably successful in helping collect the data in the vast government holdings. There is now also a broad policy in the development of agency data strategies, driven out of the office of the U.S. CIO that has helped establish the broad guidelines for agencies to develop data interoperability and sharing processes. In addition to the data strategy, the government has been aggressive in adopting an API-driven approach to data integration. These cues and processes have been driven in large part by the experience of commercial data-driven organizations like Google, Microsoft, Oracle, The SAS Institute and others. At the fundamental level, ensuring that the systems themselves are capable of interchanging data in industry-standard formats and protocols is tremendously beneficial. Evidence of the government’s desire to share and disseminate data can be seen at data.gov, analytics.usa.gov, itdashboard.gov, usaspending.gov, and many other sites.
GTI: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
NP: The translation of data to information to intelligence to knowledge is fundamental to effective governance and government operations. Perhaps the most critical component of enterprise IT is the data service itself. It is on this foundation that the speed with which we can collect, process, explore, and disseminate data truly rests. The simplicity, scalability, speed and security of the data service architecture has a profound impact on the speed, accuracy and efficacy of government operations and policies, and should be among the first consideration in how agencies can modernize their data services. This area is the particular specialty of Pure Storage, and why we continue to work closely with government to transform their data services into the era of modern computing.
What to hear more of Nick’s insights on building a successful data-driven government? You can do that here.