In May 2016, the Office of the President released a report entitled “Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights” that challenges the idea that data and algorithms are objective and fair. The report outlines President Obama’s plan for identifying and remedying discrimination in data and automated decisions by making data and processes more open and transparent.
This is part of the White House’s plan for data driven governance. With better data, you can make better decisions. I love it.
President Obama said that “information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.” He started data.gov, which is a gateway to government agency data to researchers and the public.
Created as part of the President’s commitment to democratizing information, Data.gov makes economic, healthcare, environmental, and other government information available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and use it in innovative ways.
Data.gov began as a tool to reduce government waste, but it has since branched out to meet other goals, such as the aforementioned social justice issue inequities. The White House created the position “Chief Data Scientist” and hired DJ Patil to fill the position. He has been working on breakthroughs for cancer treatment lately. The White House hosted an “Open Data Innovation Summit” in September 2016 to share best practices regarding the opening up of government data. While I applaud the trend of open data, it is necessary but not sufficient for reducing inequities, informing decisions, and cutting government waste.
I am less familiar with the big wins that data driven governance has had. Please let me know what they are in the comments. I have no doubt that there are big wins. With better data, we can make better informed decisions.
Data is a huge topic, and there is a lot of data out there. The government investing in archiving and analyzing data is necessary for breakthroughs to happen. There are a lot of people involved in this effort. My colleague, Dr. Patti Brennan now heads the National Library of Medicine. The National Library of Medicine is composed of data to support medical research, and I’m glad we have a Wisconsin ISYE Professor Emeritus and rockstar in charge.
I started this post before the election. I hope the project continues its momentum in the next administration to have an impact. Only time will tell.
Laura Albert McLay (@lauramclay) June 30, 2016