The recently released Federal Data Strategy focuses on making agency data more transparent and usable while maintaining security. It also strives to make the data more accessible to government agencies. (Federal Times, June 4, 2019)

Agencies must perform 40 actions to build cultures that value data and its public use, protect their data, and promote the appropriate internal use. (ibid)

The principles promoted by the Federal Data Strategy include:

  • Ethical governance – Agencies are to consider current and potential uses of their data and how those can benefit the population the agency serves. “To derive value from these potential uses, agencies need leadership champions, management buy-in, and staff capacity to conduct the data-driven decision-making cycle that prioritizes the informative value of data.” Agencies are instructed to:
    1. Identify data needs to answer key agency questions
    2. Assess and balance the needs of stakeholders
    3. Champion data use
    4. Use data to guide decision-making
    5. Prepare to share
    6. Convey insights from data
    7. Use data to increase accountability
    8. Monitor and address public perceptions
    9. Connect data functions across agencies
    10. Provide resources explicitly to leverage data assets (ibid)
  • Conscious design – agencies are to create a structure that promotes proper management and protection of data. According to the memorandum, “A data governance structure helps agencies use data to answer important questions while meeting legal and ethical requirements essential to maintaining public trust, including protecting the privacy and ensuring confidentiality.” Under this practice, agencies are looking at the largest number of action items:
    1. Prioritize Data governance
    2. Govern data to protect confidentiality and privacy
    3. Protect data integrity
    4. Convey data authenticity
    5. Assess maturity
    6. Inventory data assets
    7. Recognize the value of data assets
    8. Manage with a long view
    9. Maintain data documentation
    10. Leverage data standards
    11. Align agreements with data management requirements
    12. Identify opportunities to overcome resource obstacles
    13. Allow amendment
    14. Enhance data preservation
    15. Coordinate federal data assets
    16. Share data between state, local and tribal governments and federal agencies (ibid)
  • Learning culture – under the final practice, agencies must ensure that data is only used to a favorable effect, and that unauthorized users are denied access. The memorandum states, “Access to data resources includes practices related to sharing data assets, including open data and tiered access to protected data, disclosure review and interoperability of federal data. Use of data resources includes practices related to data documentation, emerging technologies for protecting confidential data and federal data expertise.” The most efficient and suitable use of data will often require cooperation between agencies not only within the government but also outside of the government:
    1. Increase capacity for data management and analysis
    2. Align quality with the intended use
    3. Design data for use and re-use
    4. Communicate planned and potential uses of data
    5. Explicitly communicate allowable use
    6. Harness safe data linkage
    7. Promote wide access
    8. Diversify data access methods
    9. Review data releases for disclosure risk
    10. Leverage partnerships
    11. Leverage buying power
    12. Leverage collaborative computing platforms
    13. Support federal stakeholders
    14. Support non-federal stakeholders (ibid)

Within the Federal Data Strategy is a draft one-year action plan in which goals laid out in the original memo are addressed. Designated agencies will develop and share government-wide resources and tools for implementing the Strategy. Some agencies will be assigned to improve the management and use of specific data while working together with other agencies to determine how they might make their data better to serve their needs both internal and external. (ibid)

Agency comments on the action plan are due July 5.

Questions about how this affects your ability to work with agency data? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.