The Power of Consumer-First Data: The Possibilities of the Data Act


Late last month, I attended the DATA Act Summit in Washington, D.C. On the surface, I’m sure it looked like a fairly typical gathering of government employees and policymaker types, discussing implementation of new legislation. Something pretty ordinary and appealing only to specialized interest.

This time, though, there was an overall sense of engagement with the topic and its possibilities within and beyond government. There were no arguments split along party lines or partisan ideological grandstanding. It was simply a group of people — about 450 — trying to raise the standards of financial transparency in our government.

The DATA Act requires that the U.S. Department of Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget establish a non-proprietary data standard governing reporting of federal spending by various agencies. It’s easy to put the DATA Act into a box, to say that’s it’s just about compliance when it comes to reporting federal spending. Quite literally “forms” over function. But what I took away from the DATA Act Summit is the general recognition that it is about far more than compliance. We have the opportunity to actually transform both how government agencies use data to analyze performance and inform policy decisions, and for American citizens to have stronger evidence that holds their government accountable for the way it spends money.

One of the vital success factors for DATA Act implementation is that it builds on what we’ve learned from employing data standards for SEC and FDIC reporting, as well as the roll-out of similar initiatives in other countries. The new DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) version 1.0, released in May, incorporates some of the insight from what’s worked (and what hasn’t), along with advances in technology and data management over the past few years that makes it much easier to consume machine-readable data.

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