Federal CIO: Chief Data Officer Council Is Coming Very Soon

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Nearly every agency is employing artificial intelligence in some capacity, and soon they’ll have more support in their efforts.

After months of collaboration, planning and legislation that mandated its existence, the government will soon establish its first-ever Chief Data Officer Council, Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said Tuesday. 

“Much like we operate human capital officers, financial management and CIO councils, there is a chief data officer council that will be operational very soon,” Kent said at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference in Washington. 

The passage of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act at the start of this year charged agencies with improving their data use and collection practices through a variety of actions, including appointing chief data officers to lead their efforts. The Evidence Act, as well as further guidance published by the Office of Management and Budget in July, also called for the establishment of the CDO Council, to further advise the government across its open data efforts.

According to the memorandum, the council will meet regularly to establish governmentwide best practices for the generation, dissemination and protection of data; promote interagency data sharing and engage stakeholders from many sectors on how the government can improve data access and use. Kent added that the government’s recently-launched Federal Data Strategy also directs agencies to implement processes for their data management. 

“So what I expect is over the next 12 months we will see those put in place,” Kent said. “Some have moved a little more quickly.” 

Robust data is the foundation that makes way for the government’s implementation of strong artificial intelligence. The federal CIO added that the administration’s data and AI initiatives are enabling interagency collaboration like never before—and she’s come to recognize that nearly every agency is already involved in integrating the budding technology to better meet its mission.  

“When I look across the entire federal government, the exciting thing is that we see every agency doing something” in terms of embracing AI, Kent said.

She explained that agencies are using AI capabilities to move first responders faster; to better understand how to address waste, fraud and abuse; to speed up the detection of malicious actors and heaps of other capabilities. Though many have only piloted the technology so far, she said some agencies and departments are starting to scale up their work and integrate AI into their operational activities. 

In that light, OMB and other federal stakeholders are now looking to invest in tools to make AI and data more accessible across all agencies, and they also aim to empower the workforce throughout the impending technological transformation. 

“So, it’s not a question of if, we are way past that. It’s now,” Kent said.