Building the Smarter State: The Role of Data Labs

New set of case studies by The GovLab: “Government at all levels — federal, state and local — collects and processes troves of data in order to administer public programs, fulfill regulatory mandates or conduct research¹. This government-held data, which often contains personally identifiable information about the individuals government serves is known as “administrative data” and it can be analyzed to evaluate and improve how government and the social sector deliver services.

For example, the Social Security Administration (SSA) collects and manages data on social, welfare and disability benefit payments of nearly the entire US population as well as data such as individual lifetime records of wages and self employment earnings. The SSA uses this administrative data for, among other things, analysis of policy interventions and to develop models to project demographic and economic characteristics of the population. State governments collect computerized hospital discharge data for both Government (Medicare and Medicaid) and commercial payers while the Department of Justice (through the Bureau of Justice Standards) collects prison admission and release data to monitor correctional populations and to address several policy questions, including those on recidivism and prisoner reentry.

Though they have long collected data, increasingly in digital form, government agencies have struggled to create the infrastructure and acquire the skills needed to make use of this administrative data to realize the promise of evidence-based policymaking.

The goal of this collection of eight case studies is to look at how governments are beginning to “get smarter” about using their own data. By comparing the ways in which they have chosen to collaborate with researchers and make often sensitive data usable to government employees and researchers in ethical and responsible ways, we hope to increase our understanding of what is required to be able to make better use of administrative data including the governance structures, technology infrastructure and key personnel. The hope is to enable other public institutions to know what is required to be able to make better use of administrative data. What follows is a summary of the learnings from those case studies. We start with an articulation of the value proposition for greater use of administrative data followed by the key learnings and the case studies themselves….(More)”

Read the case studies here.