The Collaboration Landscape
Information is a crucial link between the public and the government—and is essential to the delivery of critical state programs and services. Data sharing promotes more effective government operations and provides ongoing efficiencies in the gathering and use of public and private data.
Agencies must place greater emphasis on the exchange of data among trusted partners. Challenges to data sharing include
- a decentralized government where agencies have by necessity addressed their business needs independently
- the lack of an enterprise approach to data sharing
- the lack of a common vocabulary, standards, classification types, etc.
- an abundance of legacy systems
Data sharing is closely tied with data management (see Data Management), and both are needed to reach the goal of improving services to citizens. Sound data management practices are conducive to effective and efficient data sharing.
Benefits of Data Sharing
Agencies collect, store, and use large quantities of data to support the business of government. Often the same data is collected and stored by multiple agencies, resulting in inefficient use of storage space, inability to sustain data integrity, and potential confusion among citizens who interact with multiple agencies.
Effective data sharing enables the state to
- eliminate the silos of information within and across agencies, allowing them to more efficiently gather and store data
- increase interagency cooperation and trust among agencies by improving transparency, data quality, and accountability
- foster inter-jurisdictional engagement with federal and local government
- establish common data classifications
- realize short-term cost savings and long-term cost-avoidance through data reuse and system standardization
Some agencies have successfully established partnerships to share data, such as the initiatives for enterprise geospatial systems, health information technology, and judicial information systems.
Steps to Plan
According to a 2010 study, the largest barrier to data sharing is organizational resistance—nearly one in five IT professionals admits resistance to data sharing. For numerous reasons, there has been a cultural reluctance for government to share data. To more effectively share data, the state must overcome organizational resistance and establish a collaborative environment to foster cooperation and data sharing among agencies.
To improve operational efficiency and better serve citizens, agencies should
- identify and classify data
- examine data sharing standards
- modernize agency applications and systems
To effectively share data, agencies should set up an internal governance structure to maintain the integrity of their data. The governance structure should address data ownership, access, maintenance, and metadata.
IDENTIFY AND CLASSIFY DATA
Data classification categorizes data according to its type, specifies its location, clarifies access, and attributes essential metadata. Data that is organized and structured is more conducive to share across business areas or agencies.
There are many ways to classify data and classification methods are sometimes subjective to the data owner. Different types of users, such as legal, security, or compliance, might want different types of classification systems. To keep data classification practical and attainable, over the next biennium agencies should identify the data sets that have the greatest potential for sharing.
EXAMINE DATA SHARING STANDARDS
Agencies should examine and leverage the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) as a comprehensive resource to successfully exchange information. Developed as a common vocabulary, NIEM enables information sharing by focusing on the data taxonomy of information exchanges between organizations as part of their current or intended business practices.
NIEM uses extensible markup language (XML) to foster data sharing for information commonly shared across justice, public safety, emergency management, and homeland security. NIEM has gained a significant foothold at a national level, since it began as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In 2010 the Office of Management and Budget required federal agencies to evaluate the adoption and use of NIEM to support the ongoing implementation of reusable services across government entities. Twelve domains, or business enterprises, currently participate in NIEM, including justice; emergency management; children, youth, and family; international trade; and human services.
In Texas, NIEM is currently being utilized for data sharing among the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Office of Court Administration, and their information trading partners in coordination with the Texas Integrated Justice Information System (TIJIS).
MODERNIZE AGENCY APPLICATIONS AND SYSTEMS
An agency’s technology architecture is a large component of the overall feasibility for sharing data across agencies. Integrating systems, authenticating users, and automating processes can position an agency to increase operational efficiencies and enable effective and manageable data sharing. In contrast, the more an agency’s applications are locked in stovepipe legacy systems, the more challenges it faces for data sharing.
Examples of technology solutions to improve data sharing are
- Enterprise Service Bus or similar message-oriented middleware
- cloud services
- web-based applications
- identity management