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Using Administrative Data to Improve Decision Making.

States traditionally use administrative data to prepare annual reports showing how funds were spent and the impact of a particular program, to demonstrate transparency in describing what a state agency does, and to comply with performance measures set by the federal government, state legislature, governor, or an agency.

More recently, states have begun harnessing existing information through data analytics--procedures that review data to identify meaningful information and correlations. Such efforts provide additional opportunities for governments to make effective decisions. Analysts can uncover important insights by employing techniques such as integrating and cross-referencing data sets, undertaking calculations to show trends, finding correlations, running statistical experiments, mapping geographical data to show areas of high activity, and visualizing data in charts and graphs. Additionally, data analytics can reveal the root cause of a persistent issue, diagnose breakdowns in a system, highlight obstacles, and predict future phenomena, helping leaders make more strategic decisions.

In a recent study, How States Use Data to Inform Decisions, Pew Charitable Trusts used data collected from interviews with more than 350 state officials to highlight ways in which some government leaders have employed sophisticated data analytics to craft policy responses to complex problems, improve service delivery, manage existing resources, and examine policy and program effectiveness. In one example, the District of Columbia performed a randomized controlled trial using administrative data to assess the best way to boost participation in its Summer Youth Employment Program. The trial revealed the effect of different strategies on program attendance, helping administrators choose the most effective course of action.

The study identified five actions state leaders can take to work through the challenges they face in maximizing the value of administrative data at their disposal:

* Plan ahead by setting up guiding goals and structures. Implement well thought-out, coordinated approaches to using data by writing formal data strategies to guide future efforts; develop governance structures to inform data use and access while prioritizing privacy; and take stock of systems and perform an inventory of data sets.

* Build the capacity of stakeholders to effectively use data. Train existing employees to increase data literacy and analytics or hire skilled analysts; leverage partnerships with universities, vendors, and other organizations that have these skills and the capacity to do the work; and dedicate funding or secured grants to support data-driven projects.

* Ensure that quality data can be accessed and used by stakeholders. Work to improve data quality and accessibility among state government and approved stakeholders --such as research and nonprofit organizations--often by establishing data-sharing agreements, memorandums of understanding, and protocols among offices and agencies, or developing an enterprise, or statewide, view of data assets.

* Analyze data to create meaningful information. Utilize analytical techniques to extract information from data; visualize and disseminate data in the form of charts, dashboards, and reports; use findings to inform, guide, or alter decisions.

* Sustain support for continued data efforts. Encourage leaders' commitments to data-driven initiatives, enact legislation and policies supportive of data use, and create a culture that prioritizes data as a strategic asset to guide decision making.

The report is available at
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Title Annotation:News & Numbers
Publication:Government Finance Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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