How Can State and Local Agencies Enhance Their Use of Data Analytics?

State and local government agencies have been busy using data analytics tools in the past few years to give citizens access to more useful data and to improve public safety and traffic conditions, among many other uses.

While state and local IT leaders see data analytics as an integral part of modern digital government, they say they are facing many hurdles to maximizing their use of analytics tools.

A survey from MeriTalk questioned 75 IT decision-makers and 75 program managers and found that while 89 percent agree that data analytics is the lifeblood of modern government, most organizations (63 percent) are still in the early or middle stages of maturing their analytics programs.

State and local leaders say they need better workforce training, better data management and increased funding to help improve their analytics programs.

The State of Government Data Analytics Programs

While 90 percent of survey respondents said their agencies have improved their use of data analytics in the past two years, 4 in 5 said “the gap between the amount of data their organization collects and the amount they are able to use for meaningful analytics continues to grow.”

State and local agencies are also increasingly using chief data officers to help them manage and get insights from their data.

Still, agencies have made progress on data analytics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The overwhelming majority of respondents (83 percent) agreed that the pandemic has “emphasized the importance of a data-driven government.”

State and local agencies have also made progress in their data management and analytics capabilities over the past two years.

How to Improve Data Analytics in Government

Despite these advances, 78 percent of respondents felt the amount of data their organization collects is growing faster than their ability to keep up.

State and local IT leaders said they face several significant challenges to leveraging data in a meaningful way. They include a lack of staffing/workforce expertise (41 percent), lack of data prioritization from non-IT leadership (37 percent), poor data quality (33 percent) and an inability to meaningfully combine or share information (27 percent).

Agencies’ current top data analytics priorities include improving data security (53 percent), improving their understanding of the data they already have (51 percent), increasing data quality (44 percent), identifying priority metrics or data points (43 percent) and improving transparency with citizen data collection and use (39 percent).

At the end of the survey, MeriTalk makes several recommendations including: that agencies “identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, invest in training opportunities, and increase automation to take pressure off an already overworked department.”

It also notes that “leading organizations use resources wisely — both technology and human capital — to maximize data value.” The report further says that agencies should champion CDO appointments.

Finally, the report says it is crucial for agencies to continue to mature their data analytics programs.

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