It’s Time for a National Chief Data Officers Council

DJ Patil, the nation's first chief data scientist

DJ Patil, the nation's first chief data scientist Flickr user OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS

The case for bringing together public data leaders to share best practices and create support and momentum for a national data movement.

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh as well as an adviser for civic and government-focused businesses. 

As momentum around appointing public sector chief data officers grows, it’s time for the federal government to get ahead of the curve and create a formal chief data officers council similar to, but more inclusive, proactive and public than the already-established U.S. Chief Information Officers Council.

We’ve recently seen a number of federal agencies appoint formal CDO positions, including the departments of Transportation, Energy and, just last week, Commerce. Even the White House upped the ante and validated the importance of data by naming DJ Patil as the nation’s first chief data scientist.

“Given the substantial benefits that responsibly and creatively deployed data can provide to us and our nation, it is essential that we work together to push the frontiers of data science,” wrote Patil upon his appointment.

While this momentum, including that at the state and local levels, coupled with the work being done through Project Open Data, is inspiring, there is still a lack of national community, purpose and public visibility on a unified direction and momentum.

As public data becomes a larger and important component of government’s service to citizens, it’s imperative our federal technology leadership take a proactive role in bringing together public data leaders across all levels of government to share best practices and create support and momentum for a national data movement.

The U.S. Chief Data Officers Council, building on objectives established by the CIO Council, should execute on, but not limit itself to, the following:

  • Set implementation, security, privacy and policy guidelines that can be repurposed across all federal, state and local agencies.
  • Provide metadata standards frameworks that can serve as a guide for governments at federal, state and local levels.
  • Create higher expectations and quarterly reviews of how well Data.Gov is successfully delivering on its mission.
  • Publish quarterly report cards on how well federal agencies, states and cities are implementing open data initiatives.
  • Openly and actively communicate, engage and collaborate with the open data community at large on the above.

With a formal U.S. Chief Data Officers Council, we can establish unified, national leadership on the importance and bigger picture of data and expedite its power to truly impact every aspect of our lives.

Per President Obama, Patil says, “data science is a team sport.”

Let’s build that team.