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FCW : January 2015
DrillDown January 2015 FCW.COM 31 The Digital Accountability and Trans- parency Act creates a monumental challenge for federal agencies. Gov- ernment leaders, watchdog groups and citizens want to make sure tax dollars are being used in productive, efficient ways free from waste and fraud. They also want proof that pub- licly funded programs are performing well against stated missions and exe- cuting within budget. The only way to know is by seeing the proof: the data itself. Government agencies can’t just analyze and man- age data. They must also share it in ways that are insightful and useful. The demand for government trans- parency and accountability is here to stay. But open data should be viewed as an opportunity as much as a chal- lenge — an opportunity to encourage greater citizen participation and save precious budget dollars in the process. In fact, open data could be a huge money-saver. A McKinsey and Co. study has suggested that open data could allow government agencies to recover a combined $3 trillion a year or more. But those savings won’t hap- pen automatically. The following suggestions, from Tableau Software’s white paper “A New Era of Transparency: 5 Best Practices for Open Data in Govern- ment,” can help any agency create data portals for consumers that are easy to use and transparent. Any agen- cy that adopts the following guidelines will have a leg up in achieving true accountability and transparency. 1. Make everyone a data analyst. It’s important to embrace data analy- sis beyond the IT department or data BY CHRISTINE CARMICHAEL The public’s demand for transparency means agencies must share data in ways that the average person can understand. Here’s how. Make open data actually work A strong narrative — which can be reinforced with a mix of text and images along with charts and graphics of various sorts — can make data come alive for users. Storytelling is the key to communication. Don’t neglect it when dealing with data. SHUTTERSTOCK 0115fcw_031-032.indd 31 1/6/15 3:46 PM
November and December 2014