Virginia creates new chief data officer position
Published: June 29, 2018
Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation last week creating the new role, which will make Virginia the 19th state with a statewide data officer.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed legislation creating the new position of Chief Data Officer (CDO) for the Commonwealth. The legislation was sponsored by State Senator Emmett Hanger and Delegate Scott Garrett, and Northam has been supportive of adding the position. The Chief Data Officer role was popularized in the private sector initially, with now 19 states and the District of Columbia having added, or made plans to add, the position as well. Among other provisions, the bill creates the position of CDO to develop guidelines regarding data usage, storage, and privacy, and coordinate and oversee data sharing in the Commonwealth to promote the usage of data in improving the delivery of services.
Virginia has 63 individual government agencies and therefore amasses large amounts of data. There is an open-data website, but Virginia has scored low marks for data transparency. The Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade group that also lobbied for the creation of this position, has pushed for the prioritization of evaluating what data the government has on file. In addition to improving visibility of what data is available, the CDO will be expected to coordinate information sharing between the capital and local governments and the private sector. Specifically, supporters say the CDO role will be useful as Virginia expands Medicaid and looks for ways to combat opioid addiction.
There is not a set timeline when Northam will hire a data officer, but this move marks another step in Virginia’s reorganization of its information technology leadership. Evidence shows that working with data is an important area of concern for state and local governments. Indeed, reports from NASCIO and NASPO both include Data Management and Analytics as a priority for governments relating to procurement and strategic planning more broadly. Although it remains to be seen what exactly the role will entail and what will come about with the new position, it is indicative of a continued trend showing the value of data for state and local government.