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There's tremendous potential in government data collection

Paul Newman Archive

The American public and private sectors both have tremendous amounts of potential to help the citizenry by prioritizing data. If they put an emphasis on gathering more information about the country, its people and their public programs, both businesses and government organizations can do more to improve daily life for all.

Rather than work separately, however, public and private data scientists could accomplish more if they worked together. And according to recent reports, that's beginning to happen.

The Wall Street Journal explained that the United States Department of Commerce is looking for help from the business world. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wants private companies to help the feds unleash a massive stockpile of data.

Pritzker understands the gains, economic and otherwise, that could come from tapping into more public data, but it's a complicated process including many stages. Organizations must first go to great lengths to gather information from a variety of sources. Then, they need to be able to store that information efficiently, and without breaking the bank. Finally, they need to analyze it, and deep philosophical thought is required to take action.

The government can't handle all of these responsibilities alone. Pritzker has admitted as much.

"I'm often asking, 'Are we the best people to do this?'" she said, according to the Journal. "We have to partner. We have to work together."

By "we," she means public and private organizations alike. They have the money and manpower to collaborate on ushering in better government data, as Pritzker explained in a talk with the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council.

"Should we make more of that data available?" she asked. "What form should we make it available in? I want the private sector sitting there with me, helping me understand what we should be thinking about."

She gave a few examples of potential uses for government and business collaboration on data. By breaking down weather reports, data scientists could predict changes in the climate. They could examine demographic shifts by better analyzing information that trickles in through the census. They could gather economic data that would help them understand the ebbs and flows in the housing market.

With better practices for information management and data quality, the government could go far, but Washington may need help. Businesses can contribute the significant resources they have at their disposal to pave the road to a smarter tomorrow.