A group of software vendors and industry advocates including Microsoft, Teradata and MarkLogic outlined the data quality and standards possibilities under a wavering legislative measure Tuesday before the media and public Tuesday in Washington, D.C. as part of its “DATA Act Demo Day.”
Bill Franks, chief analytics officer, global alliances, at Teradata, displayed ways in which standardized data practices could unite disparate sources on grant applications, which is currently “impossible” to track with ease. Under DATA, that grant information would be funneled into a central repository, where changes made by the government and applicants could be jointly monitored in near real time, as opposed to the manual methods presently in place. Franks said the first step toward cutting waste and streamlining data at the government level is to centralize how it’s managed.
“This is not revolutionary or futuristic. These are standard processes that commercial organizations do every day,” Franks said.
Jay Fohs, senior account manager for MarkLogic’s government and financial regulatory division, said in a presentation the operational database angle of the DATA Act that the complexity of federal spending mixed with growing data pools mired in government lingo “make it very challenging to find out what takes place within federal spending.” Fohs emphasized that the legislation goes a long way toward data identification, which makes the transactional data behind federal spending more transparent and “more meaningful.”
DTC adhered to its stance of not advocating for a common data language, but XBRL was shown in examples throughout the presentations Tuesday due to the emphasis on spending data. DTC representatives stressed that data standards should also be applied in areas such as regulatory filings and legislative action tracking. Often cited as an example of usable and open government data was Recovery.gov, the site for projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as part of the 2009 stimulus package. A representative from Recovery.gov said Tuesday that even with government data standards in law, agencies must follow through on in-house information quality and best practices.
The DATA Act was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives in April, though its faces an uncertain future in front of the Senate and President Obama. Critics of the bill point to language that may add a regulatory layer or miss audit controls.
After a few months behind the scenes, the non-partisan Data Transparency Coalition officially launched in early April, headed by Hudson Hollister, former counsel for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.