What if you could help the government harness data by making it easier to exchange and aggregate?

U.S. Data Federation

Data informs all kinds of decision making in the federal government, but the wide array of sources and structures and units make sharing data — an activity that could result in better, more complete analysis — come down somewhere between horribly difficult and impossible. By creating tools and processes to make it easier, the team was able to help make decision-making founded on data better. And they did this through extensive research with users and stakeholders to define what was needed and how it needs to be available.

Why this matters

Federated data efforts are increasingly seen as an engine for transparency, economic growth, and accountability, yet collecting that data remains a challenge. Despite the fact that efforts to aggregate data are increasing in frequency, each new effort is still improvising solutions in terms of processes, tooling, and compliance infrastructure. It’s time to take this problem seriously and invest in reusable tools and approaches that will streamline federated data efforts in the years to come.

What we did

Increase government transparency, promote data-driven decision making, and help the government build faster and smarter by developing reusable tooling and processes to enable federated data efforts.

How we did it

Deep research and stakeholder input informed the development of resources.data.gov, an open repository of policies, tools, case studies, and other resources to support data governance, management, exchange, and use throughout the federal government.

We interviewed leaders across several federated data management projects as well as experts from academia and the private sector to create an understanding of common themes and patterns. We synthesized this information to create a Data Federation Framework, including a maturity model and playbook. The key takeaway was that creating reusable tools and processes would benefit these efforts in the future.

We then prototyped and built a reusable data validation tool, ReVal, that allows users to easily submit data that’s then validated against a set of customizable rules in real time. This significantly streamlined and simplified data collection and validation processes for our initial users: The USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), the Census Bureau, and the Department of Transportation.

As we continued to align our efforts with other data projects and stakeholders at OMB, OGIS, and data.gov, we identified an opportunity to enhance resources.data.gov (an online collection of policies, tools, case studies, and more that supports data governance, management, and use throughout the federal government). We interviewed over 30 people across 14 different agencies to define a long-term vision and strategy for resources.data.gov, implementing new organization and functionality to make the information it contained more findable and useful across all agencies.

Where we are today

Resources.data.gov is currently available and maintained by GSA, and the ReVAL tool continues to serve user needs and promote effective data leveraging.

Graduated after Phase 4 and in use at OMB, USDA, OGIS, and for other initiatives like data.gov

Next steps

Here are our recommendations for ways to further the mission of the U.S. Data Federation:

  • Work with agencies to surface their unique data resources to extrapolate and catalogue them for reuse by as many other agencies as possible.
  • Provide the infrastructure for sharing resources across the government with clear contribution and publication guidelines and support.
  • Support the work of communities of practice, the Federal Data Strategy, the CDO Council, and individual managers and practitioners across the government.