State Data Chief Rolls Out New Strategy, Goals, Governance

Chief Data Officer Joy Bonaguro, who's part of the Government Operations Agency, unveiled the new strategy in an email and a series of tweets, and on Medium.com she explains why she thought it was necessary.

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California’s Chief Data Officer Joy Bonaguro, who’s been in that role for less than a year, just rolled out a new State Data Strategy with a bold proclamation: “We cannot afford to guess how well our services are working.”

With the goal of “empowering the use of data in California,” Bonaguro on Thursday announced the new data strategy on a new CalData Web page

“The state data strategy is structured around the analogy that in order to successfully navigate the ‘data landscape’ we need to intentionally build the data roads, craft the rules of the road, and boost the drivers,” she says on the site. “Much like in the real world, we want to avoid data roads that lead to nowhere, are poorly maintained, or confuse our drivers. Our virtual data world requires the planning and care that we put into the roads and bridges of the real world.”

The State Data Strategy is the latest offering that follows the March 2019 creation of the California Open Data Policy and the rollout of the California Open Data Portal.

Bonaguro’s data strategy is a detailed 21-page outline of the initiative’s mission, its goals and its objectives. It contains three overarching goals, with specific strategies contained within each. The three goals are:

  • Streamline data access | Build the data roads
  • Improve data management and governance | Craft the rules of the road
  • Spur data use and ability | Boost the drivers
The strategy document takes a comprehensive view of data, its use and its governance. It includes lessons learned from other jurisdictions, examines “barriers” to data use and how to overcome them, and acknowledges that different departments within government have different data needs.

Bonaguro, an award-winning technology leader who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the Government Operations Agency (GovOps) post in January, announced the rollout of the strategy in a series of tweets and, in a post on Medium.com, explains why a strategy is needed — and why she wrote it:

“The UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) championed this mantra: The strategy is delivery,” she writes. “This mantra comes up over and over again in the civic tech and data space. Well, based on nearly a decade of working in government transformation, I don’t think it’s enough.”

She adds: “… If you only focus on delivery, you eventually end up with a series of projects that will be orphaned then absorbed by the infinite complexity of a large organization. That’s why you need a bit more. The concept of a strategy is overused and often trite. But if used wisely, it can lead to durable change and it starts with goals.”

GovOps isn’t the only state entity to have focused on data in recent years; evangelization of data sharing has been seen across departments and agencies. One subset of the data world — geographic information systems and geospatial data — gained a seat at the table with the appointment in April of Carlos Isaac Cabrera as the state’s geographic information officer within the California Department of Technology. His responsibilities include serving as the state’s manager of data and geospatial services, and his domain includes the California State Geoportal.  

Related to the rollout of the State Data Strategy, Bonaguro announced “the next iteration of the CalData network, what we're calling CalData Communities. CalData Communities will be lightly chartered groups that will focus on specific topics and issues.” Her announcement includes links for those who’d like to learn more or join the communities.

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.