Data integration helps a successful business make things simple and quick for customers, and keeps them coming back. While a company will have data silos, data held within one area is made available to others in order to help the customer. In most local, county and state governments that is not the case. Mandates and history have allowed various agencies to become independent and operate under their own set of rules, yet each is serving the exact same customer.
Have you ever asked questions like:
- Why does government operate so slowly?
- Why or how they are so off in their financial estimates?
- How could that person have gotten away with taking bribes?
- Why do I have to fill out the same documents at four different agencies to get a single permit?
When I first went to work in local government, I just knew I could help make things better. That was not the case. I was shocked at the often-contradictory local, state and federal mandates that severely decreased efficiencies. Citizens are demanding government be more transparent and accountable, and in many ways, government is responding. However, without data integration to knock down information silos, departments and agencies will continue to operate independently, with their own rules and direction.
For example, let’s take a developer who is pursuing local and state permits for a manufacturing facility. Once the permits are in place, they will hire local construction workers, build the facility and then the manufacturer moves in and hires local workers. To get this process started, however, the developer will be forced to interact with several local, county and state agencies for various reasons via multiple phone calls, text messages, emails, onsite visits, etc. This is just to obtain the necessary permits to start construction. This arduous process delays economic prosperity for both the community and its citizens. An unconstructed facility generates no property tax, and denies citizens employment opportunities, which in turn stresses the community’s social infrastructure.
Much of what a developer submits is duplicative, but each agency -- because of mandates and history -- requires separate submission of data into their own system, be it manual or electronic. This redundant requirement is time-consuming for the developer, adds layers of bureaucracy and increases opportunities for delays and mistakes. This extends the development timeline, drives up project costs, increases the risk of corruption, clouds transparency and ultimately delays job creation, which is the heart of a community’s existence.
Today’s technology allows databases to be interconnected, yet independent, all while limiting access to only the needed information. In this example, interconnected databases would:
- Bring a developer’s project online quicker by providing a single point of submission and allow each agency to see where the project is in the process, the delays that are occurring and why, concerns by other agencies and mitigation efforts to address the concerns, etc.
- Increase transparency, as all agency notes are visible, reducing the opportunity for “back room” deals.
- Ensure alignment with all rules and regulations.
- Foster job creation for citizens much quicker.
The result? A more vibrant economy and increased tax collections, all without increasing individual taxes.
There are many more examples of how interconnecting databases can create efficiencies:
- Tax fraud detection increases collections by identifying tax evaders.
- Welfare fraud detection eliminates payments to those abusing the system, freeing up dollars for those in need.
- Real-time data improves day-to-day government decision-making, so no more using historical data to make decisions for today.
- Workforce and economic development helps increase citizens’ job skills and recruit/broaden job opportunities while diversifying the economy, which in turn drives long-term economic sustainability.
Better criminal justice collaboration protects the public by keeping criminals off the street and helps law enforcement make better decisions
Simply put, data integration increases transparency while providing savings through efficiencies that can be passed on to citizens through better roads, schools, economic development efforts. All of this leads to maintaining or lowering our annual tax bills and ensuring our communities prosper for years to come.
So, when citizens decry stalling by local officials and start movements to institute another mandate to force openness and efficiency, maybe a second look is warranted. What may be needed is not another mandate but for government agencies to work closer together by integrating their data.