America’s Data Agency’s New Way to Solve Big Problems

November 15, 2016 9:12 am PST | Data as a Service

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is calling on 35 non-governmental organizations to fix the government’s biggest problems. The federal agency is launching a new operating model, called a joint venture partnership, that will focus on using data to drive economic growth and operational excellence.

Yesterday, NTIS hosted its new partners — including Socrata, West Big Data Innovation Hub at the University of California Berkeley, and Deloitte Consulting, among others — at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to explain how the new program will deliver services to federal agencies.

The Department of Commerce hopes to dramatically increase its service offerings to federal agencies by incorporating the internet of things, cloud computing, emerging technologies, agile applications, and interoperability into solutions that solve problems in less time. NTIS receives no appropriations and sustains its operations by providing services to other agencies. Here’s the anticipated process for the initial 60–90 days of a new project:

  1. A federal agency contacts NTIS with a big problem statement. For example, we want to make the GDP model more accurate.
  2. NTIS hosts discussion sessions with interested partners and the federal agency to more clearly define the problem.
  3. Interested partners submit solutions based on their products, services, and expertise.
  4. NTIS reviews the proposals with a panel that includes an agency representative.
  5. Once NTIS has scored the proposals based on merit, NTIS assembles a solution that may contain elements from one or several partners.
  6. NTIS presents one solution, that leverages NTIS skills, such as federal data scientists, with partner offerings, to the agency.
  7. Once the agency agrees to the terms of the solution, work begins.

For the past two years, NTIS has been working to create this framework. They established an oversight board to guide the evolution of the agency and transition away from services that were no longer aligned with the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Plan priorities, which includes being “America’s Data Agency.” NTIS anticipates that the initial partnership will last approximately three years.

“Data has little value, if it’s not accessible,” says Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews. He went on to describe how the partnership can reduce red tape and improve data collection, analysis, and delivery.

The Department of Commerce emphasized that even with the executive leadership changes, data is not going away. The Department experimented and learned from another joint partnership in the past. This new partnership has “guardrails” in place to ensure that procurement ethics are upheld and that the agency becomes a better steward of taxpayer dollars.

“We are bridging government, business, communities, and consumers to accelerate the data economy and strengthen American competitiveness,” says Avi Bender, NTIS Director. “It’s not enough to have open data; we need to provide that data back to communities and businesses to generate economic growth.”

To learn more about how this partnership can help your federal agency, talk to one of our federal data experts.


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