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Driving Open Data's Value and Innovation's Influence in California

Recently I had the pleasure of addressing Open Data Fest III in Sacramento, CA an awesome gathering of data contributors and enthusiasts out west that are to advancing the agenda of using the state’s data for positive impacts. California has come a long way in its open data journey and the California Department of Health & Human Services (CHHS) has experienced an evolution from the days of only considering its data related issues when those data had been victimized by breaches, to advancing health and social services innovations in the state by embracing open health data.

The state has become yet another exemplar of what’s possible when data is opened and the community is engaged in meaningful interventions toward better health. Since launching its open data initiative the CHHS has:

*Garnered cross-departmental participation: All 12 departments CHHS are publishing data on the California Health & Human Services Open Data Portal, which federates to Over 160 datasets are available in a variety of open formats.

*Demonstrated the data’s value: CHHS conducted its first state government code-a-thon producing pilot applications that use data from the portal.

*Incorporated lessons learned: Lessons learned from open data activities have informed and advanced the work of Let’s Get Healthy California, which aims to make California the healthiest state in the nation by 2022. The Let’s Get Healthy California interactive website includes 39 data-driven indicators of health and wellness.

Similar to HHS, the data openness movement in California has opened minds of state health department colleagues to a broader spectrum of innovation activities across agency. With that in mind I was sure to share a few facts about the IDEA Lab innovation pathways briefly highlighted below:

*HHS Ignite Accelerator, our internal innovation startup program that provides coaching and support to help HHS staff take their ideas from conception to tested prototype. Over the last few months, the finalist teams have had the opportunity to explore their ideas a bit further through direct interactions with their customers. Leading up to the next round of Ignite the IDEA Lab received over 100 application from across the department and the 47 finalists were recently announced.

*HHS Ventures Fund, the highly competitive growth-stage funding and support program for HHS employees with proven ideas to dramatically improve their office, agency, or the Department’s ability to carry out its mission. We received a record 27 applications for Ventures and the winning teams were announced in this blog.

*HHS Buyers Club is a project focused on addressing a critical problem in government: modernizing federal acquisition of information technology (IT) and related services. Given the expansion and impactful role of digital services throughout government, there are many opportunities to improve existing acquisition methods that support government services, directly benefiting the public. Current federal acquisitions approaches reflect unnecessary operational and cultural barriers to success including but not limited to the lack of true end user and stakeholder engagement from cradle to grave in a manner that maximizes value while minimizing spend. We’re not implementing new regulations or any new statutes but rather emphasizing new strategies allowed under approved legislation.

Of course, one can’t go to Open Data Fest and not talk about data. I addressed some of the things that we in government, who manage and curate valuable data resources, must do to advance our data initiatives. Among them, the need to invest in personnel that embrace the modern requirements for operating in digital times. Increasingly government agencies are appointing Chief Data Officers (CDOs) recognizing the need to truly manage their data resources as assets. These folks are seeing to it that their agency is treating data as a service, and making decisions based on the value of the data. To that end, all levels of government are seeking out data scientists who have an intense curiosity and passion for exploring the data and an ability to manipulate it to solve a problem and tell a story.

To accomplish these goals of well managed data we have to invest in infrastructure to support a more demanding capacity to participate in the growing data and innovation ecosystem outside of government. Information technology development is accelerating at a rapid pace in the private sector and governments need to prioritize the budgetary commitments that provide allow our data resources to be integral ingredients in the mix.

Naturally, at Open Data Fest I had to mention Health Datapalooza! That’s right, I reminded the audience (and I’m reminding you) that it’s nearly time for the 7th Health Datapalooza. Beginning May 8th in Washington DC we’ll gather an incredible mix of people and organizations that are creating knowledge from data and pioneering innovations that drive health policy and practice, and generate market value. The sessions will challenge your assumptions, help us generate new connections with others, and facilitate engagement across diverse perspectives and topics.

This collective approach to investing in internal innovations, committing to personnel and infrastructure, and developing better engagement with the public to add alternative value to government data resources all demonstrate that governments nationwide understand that open data is not just a thing to do, well managed and open data is now the way we do things.