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Every day state governments make decisions that affect the lives of their residents. As state governments become increasingly digital, the amount of digital data in states’ possession has grown exponentially. States are seeking to leverage this data to make more informed decisions and to deliver services faster, cheaper, and more effectively.

As states mature in their collection, maintenance, and use of data, their approaches can be fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable. In 2018, the Pew Charitable Trusts examined how states use data to inform decisions. The report identified a series of strategic action states can implement to advance how they use data.

Missing from these actions is the designation of a leader to coordinate and facilitate the use of data statewide. The organization Results for America published a State Standard of Excellence that identifies “Data Leadership” as a critical component for states in advancing their use of data and evidence. According to Results for America, “A designated chief data officer can create a coherent set of policies, structures, and guidance for how state agencies should routinely use data to improve programs.”

Based on these reports and lessons learned from the nation’s state Chief Data Officers, the State Chief Data Officers Network recommends the following principles for states to utilize in advancing their use of data:

LEAD - Designate an executive level data leader as the Chief Data Officer;

PLAN - Create a strategy, governance structure, and inventory of data;

BUILD - Increase the capacity of stakeholders to effectively use data;

SHARE - Establish clear and predictable processes for data sharing;

ANALYZE - Provide mechanisms and platforms to enable data integration and analysis;

SUSTAIN - Ensure ongoing support exists for data efforts.

Key to the long term sustainability of state data efforts is establishing laws that ensure efforts will survive beyond a specific administration. While many states have used executive orders and memoranda of understanding to implement various data initiatives, these efforts can be rescinded at any time. Further, ensuring that a commitment exists from state legislatures demonstrates a broader commitment to sustainability from top-level policy makers.

The following are a series of examples of legislative language that states can draw upon to aid in implementing the six principles. These examples are based on existing laws from various states and highlight critical elements of the legislation.

Model Legislation for State Chief Data Officers and Data Integration Centers

Lead Plan Build Share Analyze Sustain