How governments can create a culture of data sharing

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New York City government leaders on Friday discussed ways to improve data-sharing challenges, with a particular focus on how they could adopt and implement a data-sharing culture that leads to better outcomes for constituents.

The “Creating a Culture of Data Sharing” event, sponsored by software provider GCOM and held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage Museum in Lower Manhattan, explored how governments can take data assets and use them to develop meaningful insights and analytics solutions used by officials , government agencies, and healthcare and community organizations because they respond to voter needs.

“We chose this topic because of the relevance it has to all the work you do on it every day in this space. The importance will increase significantly over time, because it really is close to the heart of so many mayors [Eric] Adams’ initiatives,” GCOM Senior Vice President Rick Nessel, moderator of the event, told attendees in his opening remarks. “And (it’s) key to initiatives like crime prevention and improved public health education and outcomes.”

“So how important is data sharing to us?” Nettle asked. “Well, if there’s one thing the government has, it’s a wealth of valuable data. And if there’s one other thing the government has, it’s the almost endless need to glean insights from that data to better serve our constituents. And we find that the more data that is shared, the better the insights.”

Keynote speaker Martha Norick, who serves as chief analytics officer and director of the mayor’s office of data analytics, said in her remarks that there is probably no problem “more pervasive in city governments than the challenge of sharing data between city agencies.”

“I expect this to be a real sermon-to-the-choir moment,” she told attendees, before describing some of the “current bumps in the data-sharing road.”

“Right now, all too often data sharing feels like starting from scratch every time, a manual process as opposed to a process of working from a template,” she said. “The technical and legal costs can be high and discourage data sharing for research or analysis purposes that may be at a more exploratory stage.”

“And figuring out what data is out there is difficult,” she added. “Much of the knowledge of what’s out there in terms of data can only come from experience. And when people leave town or retire, move on, we’ll start all over again. That’s enough to throw your hands in the air in despair.”

However, Norick described himself as still optimistic about the potential of the data exchange. “I really believe that things can get better and that things don’t have to be the way they are now, they have to be forever,” she said. “There are many New Yorkers who don’t see their government as a series of silos. And when we force them to jump through hoops and give us the same information over and over again, instead of sharing that information with each other, we actually do harm to the people we serve.”

Norick later participated in a panel session that expanded the event’s discussion on creating a data-sharing culture in the city government, and was followed by a question-and-answer session with attendees.

Among the other panelists were Patti Bayross, chief information officer and executive vice president of information technology at the New York City Housing Authority; Benny Thottam, Chief Information Officer at the New York City Fire Department; Deshard Stevens, chief information officer at the New York City Commission on Human Rights; Andrew White, Associate Officer for Policy, Planning and Measurement at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services; and Councilor Jennifer Gutierrez, Chair of the Technology Committee.

Carlos Rivero, Vice President of Data and Analytics, Client Outcomes at GCOM, acted as moderator.

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