GSA Plans to Democratize Its Data


The agency's central platform will let employees dabble in data sets and analytics tools.

The General Services Administration is building a centralized platform employees can use to explore data sets.

The Data Science Virtual Desktop program is designed to be an environment where employees can “grab access to the data sets” stored in the cloud, and any analytics tools they might need, GSA’s Chief Data Officer Kris Rowley said at an event hosted by ATARC, a working group hosting technology-focused summits.

With this project, GSA is moving toward self-service for data analysis, Rowley explained. Currently, employees take a more decentralized approach, using various platforms depending on the component. A central environment that could be virtually accessed could also be more secure than the scattered approach GSA currently uses, and it might also create a community of practice around analysis to “promote data-driven decisions from the ground up,” according to his presentation.

An agency’s approach to data analysis might be determined by its culture, Rowley explained. One viewpoint asserts that data analysis is IT work and should be kept siloed; another is that business analysts and decision-makers should be doing their own data analysis.

Designated data stewards might grant access to certain employees based on their responsibilities and access levels.

“I’m really just trying to encourage people to bring their work to a common place, bring their data to a common place,” Rowley said.

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