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Governments Can & Should Put Data to Work for Their Citizens, Communities

Cloud-Built Data Warehouses Can Help Them Use Data to Drive Positive Change

Governments have access to vast and varied data sets. They include bid submission statistics, driver’s license data, government asset lists, permit information, voter registration records and website traffic metrics.

But while governments are data-rich, they tend to be insights-poor. However, there is good news to report on this front. Many organizations are waking up to the value of data – and data sharing – to drive positive change. Governments are onboard with this trend as well.


Breaking Down Barriers

The even better news is that built-for-the-cloud data warehouses now make it possible for governments – and their partners and constituents – to unlock the value of data.

Cloud-built data warehouses do that by enabling various stakeholders to share data in an efficient, scalable, secure and user-friendly manner. That way organizations can make better decisions faster.

State and local governments are ideal candidates for cloud-built data warehouses because they have a lot of data, but that data lives in siloed, antiquated systems. A cloud-built data warehouse breaks down those barriers and makes data in different formats and from different systems available from a centralized source. It also gives organizations the option of sharing specific data with relevant interest groups – rather than having to make the choice between sharing all data or none of it.


Driving Social Change

Leaders such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom clearly see the value of bringing together data. Newsom is spearheading several initiatives to enable California government and the state’s residents to benefit from the power of data sharing.

For example, on his first day in office Newsom signed an executive order called RFI2. The Request for Innovative Ideas aims to find answers to key challenges in the state, such as the wildfire crisis. It will work to do that by inviting traditional and non-traditional partners to help define the problem, share ideas on how to address it and then develop prototype solutions for the state to review and select from.

As Code for America Founder and Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka wrotefollowing the RFI2 executive order: “While this iterative process may not sound remarkable, in fact it stands in stark contrast to the principles of the legacy government procurement process, which assumes full knowledge of what’s needed and spends enormous resources specifying and over-specifying requirements.”

Preventing wildfires is just one of the many government challenges data collaboration networks can help address. Governments also can use the single source of truth a built-for-the-cloud data warehouse enables to do things like:

·         make more informed decisions related to health and human services

·         get all relevant data to inform natural disaster preparation and response efforts

·         plan to fund and shore up bridges, streets and tunnels amid an environment in which there are more electric and fuel-efficient vehicles on the road

·         access a full inventory of state land assets to decide where to build affordable housing

·         modernize tax rules to meet government goals – such as holding back new gas tax funds from counties that fail to meet affordable housing targets, as Newsom has suggested doing


Homelessness is a large and complex problem in places like Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco. Governments can’t simply address it by doing spot checks and glancing down the street. They need to use data to really understand the breadth of the issue and identify the resources that are available to solve the problem.

Data collaboration networks also can facilitate public-private initiatives. For example, a company like Lime needs to engage with local governments to gets bikes and scooters on their streets. Data sharing allows for that information exchange so governments and private or non-profit organizations can work together to enable mobility, encourage healthy living, reduce traffic congestion and take other steps toward improvement.


Giving Power to the People

Citizens and other residents can clearly benefit from such efforts. But in addition to being on the receiving end of data-driven efforts, these individuals can play an active role, too.

For example, people can access publicly available data dashboards like the California Open Data Portal to access an array of data related to the economy and demographics, government, health and human services, natural resources, transportation and water. That way individuals can make the best decisions for themselves. Some citizens may also opt to use such information to drive grassroots-level change.

Some government officials also are working to give consumers a bigger say in how their data is used and how they benefit from it. Newsom has suggested California establish a “data dividend” to enable consumers to “share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

This is just the latest push to give California residents more control over their data. Last summer, the state passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.


Using Models That Work

Governments are early in their journeys of becoming data-driven organizations. But many government entities already use AWS and Azure to support their business applications, so they understand the value of agile solutions that enable them to scale as needed.

Cloud-built data warehouses bring that agility, scalability and pay-as-you-go capability to the data warehouse world. That means governments can capture the value of their data without making huge upfront investments in on-premises data warehouses or requiring taxpayers to pay for idle resources.

California is on the leading edge of some of the data-driven discussions and efforts mentioned earlier. But any of the other 49 states – or any government in the world – has much to gain from the Data Economy.


There’s so much value locked up in data. When cloud-built data warehouse technology brings data together in an accessible, secure and scalable way, everybody stands to benefit.


Zach Oxman is sales director-public sector West at Snowflake (