Government data collection has moved far beyond Census collection and DMV records. States and cities are now able to track the ridership of public buses and how many users access the state website on any given day.

Access to this level of data gives governments an incredible opportunity to improve citizen services and satisfaction, as well as reduce government spending through streamlining operations. However, states need to be innovative in how they use data and stay on top of the latest trends. The Center for Data Innovation (CDI), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recently released “The Best States for Data Innovation,” a new report analyzing how states are using data to innovate and offer new services.

Topping the overall list were Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland. Rounding out the bottom were Mississippi, West Virginia, and Louisiana.

The Center for Data Innovation ranked the states based on their ability to maximize their potential for data-driven growth and progress. (Image: The Center for Data Innovation)

The report used 25 indicators across three categories to assess which states are doing the most to encourage and enable data-driven innovation:

  • Data: The extent to which key data sets are available, including data about the government, education, health care, and energy.
  • Technology: The availability of key digital infrastructure, such as broadband, smart meters, and electronic health records.
  • People and companies: Human and business resources, such as the number of open-data companies in the state, and the size of the data professional community.

The CDI selected these three categories because they encapsulate what is needed to foster a sense of data innovations. Keeping data open and available promotes transparency and trust within a government. It also gives citizens a chance to collaborate and become engaged in the process, as well as promoting more innovative and efficient decision-making within the government.

Additionally, private sectors benefit from open data sets. Companies can use that data to build new products and services. The report cites the parking mobile app startup SpotHero, which is based in Chicago. During its initial development, SpotHero heavily relied on open government data. When looking only at the first category, the rankings do change a bit, with Colorado moving to the top spot.

Colorado, Oregon, and Delaware top the list of states for ensuring the data is available for public use. (Image: The Center for Data Innovation)

A strong infrastructure is essential to innovation. CDI explains that the needed digital infrastructure includes fixed and mobile broadband Internet, data platforms such as intelligent transportation systems, electronic health records, and smart meters.

Additionally, the CDI believes states must consider how they will support the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), especially the development of smart cities that rely on data collection via sensors on physical infrastructure and digital transactions with government agencies. Again, rankings shifted when looking at only this metric.

Maryland, Utah, and Washington moved to the top of the list and West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi shifted to the bottom. (Image: The Center for Data Innovation)

The CDI also explains that states should focus their economic development efforts on the data economy and helping their existing industries better use data. Health care is a prime area where data could revolutionize services and help lower costs. States can start with making sure their citizens are prepared for tech- and data-focused jobs, with strong math and computer science training beginning in elementary school. Though it’s a long-term investment, it’s one that ensures tech companies will be attracted to investing in the state.

When it comes to developing human business capital, Massachusetts retained the top spot.

California moved into second place in the Center for Data Innovation’s final metric. (Image: The Center for Data Innovation)

CDI offered states recommendations for improving their use of data. A first step for states lagging behind is to develop an open-data portal and a statewide open-data policy. To make sure startups, business, and researchers can use the open data, states need to publish government data in open and machine-readable formats.

States can improve their technology infrastructure by supporting efforts to increase broadband access and improve broadband speeds. States interested in developing smart cities within their borders can create a statewide e-government strategy, which would include consideration of emerging technologies such as IoT, and work with municipal governments to drive e-government adoption.


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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs