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Creating Predictability in the Government’s Geospatial Data Supply Chain…
This article expands upon the presentation on What does geodata.gov mean to data.gov presented at the First International Open Government Data Conference in November 2010 and as well the GAO releases report on FGDC Role and Geospatial Information which emphasizes similar focus on getting the data right.
Would it be valuable to establish predictability in the government geospatial data supply chain?
As examples, what if one could be guaranteed that every year or two the United States Census Bureau produced in cooperation with state and local authorities or that HHS produced a high quality updated county boundary dataset would produce a geocoded attributed list of all the hospitals in the country validated by the health care providers. Of course it would be valuable and could provide the means to minimize redundant data purchasing, collection and processing.
If the answer is “of course”, then why haven’t we done so already?
It is a simple concept, but one without an implementation strategy. Twenty years after the establishment of Circular A-16 and FGDC metadata content standards, we are still looking at metadata from a dataset centric point of view -that is for “what has been” and not for “what will be”. Knowing what is coming and when it is coming enables one to plan.
The model can be shifted to the “what will be” perspective, if we adopt a system’s driven data lifecycle perspective. Which would mean we look at Data Predictability and Crowdsourcing.
It may seem ironic, in the age of crowd sourcing, to argue for predictable data lifecycle releases of pedigreed information and seemingly deny the power of the crowd. But the fact remains, the civilian government entities in the US systematically collect and produce untold volumes of geospatial information (raster, vector, geo-code able attributes) through many systems including earth observation systems, mission programs using human capital, business IT systems, regulatory mandates, funding processes and cooperative agreements between multiple agencies and all levels of government. The governments in the US are enormous geospatial data aggregators but much of this work is accomplished in systems that owners and operators view as special but not “spatial”.
An artificial boundary or perception has been created that geospatial data is different than other types of data and by extension so are the supporting systems.
There remain challenges with data resolution, geometry types and attribution etc., but more importantly there is a management challenge here. All of these data aggregation systems have or could have a predictable data lifecycle accompanied by publishing schedules and processing authority metadata. Subsequently, the crowd and geospatial communities could use its digital muscle to complement these systems resources if that is their desire and all government programs would be informed by having predictable data resources.
What is required is communicating the system’s outputs, owner and timetables.
Once a data baseline is established, the geospatial users and crowd could determine the most valuable content gaps and use their resources more effectively; in essence, creating an expanded and informed community. To date, looking for geospatial information is more akin to an archaeological discovery process than searching for a book at the library.
What to do?
Not to downplay the significance of the geospatial and subject matter experts publishing value added datasets and metadata into clearinghouses and catalogs, but we would stand to gain much more by determining which finite number of systems aggregate and produce the geospatial data and creating a predictable publishing calendar.
In the current environment of limited resources, Xentity seeks to support efforts such as the FGDC, data.gov, and other National Geospatial Data Assets and OMB to help shift the focus on these primary sources of information that enable the community of use and organize the community of supply. This model would include publishing milestones from both past and futures that could be used to evaluate mission and geospatial end user requirements, allow for crowd sourcing to contribute and simplify searching for quality data.
Colorado has done something quite innovative and has been recognized with a StateScoop 50 award for State Innovation of the Year.
And Xentity was glad to be a part of it.
Colorado’s Office of the Secretary of State invented and delivered Go Code Colorado, an app development competition for using public data to address challenges identified by the business community. Three teams built winning apps and business plans and will have their technology licensed by the state for a year. These teams have formed businesses; some are in discussions with investors and some have left their day jobs to focus on building their new venture.
Here’s the genius of Go Code Colorado: the State took funds from the filing fees that businesses pay to register their businesses and GAVE IT BACK to the business community through Go Code Colorado… AND incubated three new promising businesses in the process.
Plans are to build on this first year and run Go Code Colorado for a second year… on a larger scale and improving on many aspects based on lessons learned from year one.
Xentity had the pleasure of participating in Go Code Colorado as the State’s data management provider — sourcing, curating, improving and publishing 38 datasets from state agencies from Higher Ed to Labor and Employment.
You can see more about Go Code and Xentity’s support in our April Blog Entry: Go Code Colorado Open Data Effort is going into its final weeks . Also, check out the photo gallery of the final event.
States all-around have gotten into Open Data movements. Colorado has as well, and their recent Go Code Colorado effort is a very unique entry into this foray ( http://gocode.colorado.gov/)
Go Code Colorado was created to help Colorado companies grow, by giving them better and more usable access to public data. Teams will compete to build business apps, creating tools that Colorado businesses actually need, making our economy stronger.
Xentity is very proud to be supporting this innovative Government Solution
Xentity was awarded IT consulting support for the the Business Intelligence Center platform and data catalog which supports the now branded Go Code Colorado initiative. Xentity’s consultants have provided the data and technology resources to manage and advise the publication of public sector data to the Colorado Information Marketplace and to provide technical support developers who participate in the Challenge.
Xentity primarily has provided data platform support. We have provided data readiness analysis, data architecture guidance, project management, and the data analysts to “wrangle” the data (aka ETL) to get the datasets onto the platform. We also have provided the IT and data support on-site at the multiple locations and events to assure the challenge participants and finalists are getting the support they need to be successful in accessing and using the data and services. Finally, we are supporting the technical review of applications to assure these applications can have a life beyond the “hackathon” stage.
The final stages are coming the first 10 days of May. The 10 finalists have proven to demonstrate very viable solutions to achieve the goal of helping make our economy stronger.
Some more background and detail on how we got here
(The following is from the State as guidance to this effort)
Colorado government agencies possess large volumes of public business and economic data. This data can help businesses with strategic planning, but it exists in so many different places and formats making it difficult for that most businesses to use it. The Secretary of State’s office will address this problem through the creation of the Business Intelligence Center (BIC). BIC seeks to aggregate and analyze data available to the business community.
This effort is led by the Colorado Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s office interacts with hundreds of thousands of business entities, charities, and nonprofits in the state. The Secretary of State’s office collects, manages, and disseminates large amounts of basic data about those organizations and wanted to make the data useful to Colorado businesses.
The Department sought to make this data more useful and collaborated with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado to publish the Quarterly Business and Economic Indicator Report. This report combines Department data with other economic data collected by he Leeds School to provide meaningful economic information to the business community. For instance, new business filings are a leading indicator of job creation. With this and other information provided in the report, the business community can make smarter decisions that will grow the Colorado economy.
Since first publishing the report in 2012, the Secretary of State received comments from many members of the business community asking to see more detailed data regarding economic trends
in order to better understand the distribution of commerce in Colorado. This includes access to the location, size, vibrancy, and concentration of key business nodes. While this level of detail would be tremendously helpful, the Department cannot provide the information because multiple state agencies collect the desired data and it is not readily available in a common place or even a common format.
A central data collection point is needed. During meetings with other government agencies, Department staff concluded that these data requests could be met by aggregating all the information spread throughout various agencies and databases into a single tool by breaking down agency silos and better cataloging existing resources. Department staff also concluded that access and availability to the data is not enough. In order to make the raw data useful to the vast majority of business owners, data analysis and visualization tools are needed. These conclusions led to the Business Intelligence Center project.
The Business Intelligence Center consists of a centralized data catalog that combines public data into a meaningful tool for businesses.
The vision for this project is two-fold. First, it consolidates public data relevant to businesses on a single platform. Second, it gives business the tools to make the data useful. The second goal is
achieved through a civic apps challenge—the Colorado Business Innovation Challenge—that will give financial incentives to the technology community to build web and mobile applications that use state and other data to solve existing business challenges.
The data platform is akin to an information clearing house. It will make data sources currently dispersed over multiple government departments and agencies accessible in a common location.
This platform will offer Colorado businesses unprecedented access to public data that is validated and relevant to short and long-term needs. Besides enhancing businesses’ access to state data, the BIC will also contribute to economic growth. The creation of the BIC will make data available to all Colorado businesses at no additional cost. Currently only large entities with the time, staff, and budget to engage in detailed statistical analysis can use these data sets. Providing this data to every type and size business in Colorado provides a unique opportunity to contribute to economic development. The BIC will nurture key industry networks and lay the foundation for a digital infrastructure that will continue to expand and improve over time.
The Colorado Business Innovation Challenge is an innovative way to create solutions and ensure the BIC is useful to Colorado businesses.
Simply making the data available is insufficient to most business owners. To truly help the vast majority of businesses—especially small businesses—tools must be developed to present the data in a useful and consumable form. Normally government agencies develop tools to fill this information vacuum, but historically the government has not been successful developing highly useful and effective tools. A new approach is needed—that approach is the Colorado Business Innovation Challenge.
Modeled after a “civ apps” challenge that has been run in multiple cities across the United States and internationally, the Challenge presents the software development community with problem
questions and then asks that community to create possible solutions. At the end of the challenge, the Secretary of State will license the most innovative and implementable web or mobile application. The best design will receive a contract with the Secretary of State to make the application available to the public on the Business Intelligence Center platform. The Department will also pursue partnerships with the Colorado technology and startup industry to provide additional incentives, such as mentoring, hosting, and office space to the Challenge winners. The long-term intent of the program is to not only create an environment for fostering community involvement through the Challenge, but to develop sustainable tools that are developed in the Challenge.