Across the United States, entrepreneurs, business officials, data scientists, civic leaders, and educators are laying the groundwork for using data to grow the economy and address a range of societal challenges. “The Best States for Data Innovation,” a recent report from ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation, reviews a series of indicators that rank states on the degree to which they have achieved the key enablers of success in the data economy, including the availability of high-value datasets, the use of important technologies, and the development of human and business capital.
On September 26, 2017, Daniel Castro, co-author of the report and director of the Center for Data Innovation, and Paul Taylor, the chief content officer for e.Republic and editor-at-large of Governing magazine, hosted an online discussion about the report and the opportunities state and local governments have to maximize their potential for data-driven economic development and progress.
Castro released this report because the United States is often seen as a monolithic entity, but policies at the state level play a large role in innovation. For example, New York has a different innovation culture than Oklahoma. Overall, the report identifies the top states for data innovation as Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, California, Delaware, and Utah. According to Castro, the fact that these states are located across the country illustrates there is not a regional element to the rankings.
The study ranked states in other categories, as well. For ensuring data is available for use, Colorado came first, with Maryland and Delaware following behind. The top three states for enabling key technology platforms are Maryland, Utah, and Washington. For developing human and business capital, Massachusetts, California, and Washington lead the country.
However, states that receive high rankings still have room to improve. For example, while Colorado is open with financial government data, it is not so forthcoming with legislative data. In fact, Castro advised all state governments to be more open with data, develop the necessary infrastructure to succeed in the data economy, and create e-government strategies that take advantage of data innovation. In addition, he thinks it is necessary to pass laws prohibiting strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), which can interfere with many of the economic and social benefits that come from sharing data.
Additionally, Castro emphasized the need to monitor and assess these indicators. According to him, the European Union has already begun investigating these factors, looking into the data value chain and how data impacts the economy. The United States should do the same, particularly because national data policies carry global trade implications. If the United States assesses the impact of such policies, it can more actively engage in the global conversation around data.
Castro and Taylor also discussed how to become a leader in data innovation. While Castro believes that top-down leadership is important, he doesn’t think the federal government must always lead in the data innovation realm. Rather, some of the leadership can come from those in government who can lead the development of such technologies or even from those in the vendor community. It ultimately comes down to finding an effective way to create fast-paced innovation in the data ecosystem.
Taylor asked Castro how he would design a data innovation strategy. First, Castro said he would standardize the process in order to encourage interoperability. These standards can be set by either the government or by industry groups. He noted that while the federal government does not need to be responsible for setting the standard, whether a company receives federal money should be conditional on following standards. He also emphasized the need for cooperation. For example, if one city is developing a new data project, it should partner with another city. Both cities do not need to follow the exact same plan, but they can consult and work together, creating a roadmap towards interoperability. Castro would also involve the private sector, opening a market for tools to make use of new data.
Recent technological advancements have made it easier to use data effectively, giving rise to a new data economy. States should embrace this new technological wave, which would enable them to make economic and social progress in the future.