A Government in Transition: From Documents to Data
Thoughts on the transformation from documents to data
By Dean Ritz, Senior Director of IP Strategy at Workiva, Inc.
Governments, businesses, institutions and individuals are amidst a technical and digital reporting transition. Printed documents and PDFs just aren't accessible enough when you want to work with the data locked inside these documents. For example, the popularity of personal financial management software like Mint, Personal Capital, and Quicken speaks to this transition among consumers. Moving from documents to data enables automation for reporting and analysis in a fashion that increases efficiency and reduces errors. This is an effective use of our tax dollars and good for government management.
In government, the transition from documents to data is transpiring in various ways including, most notably, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act). The DATA Act is the United States's first open data law that requires all 24 CFO Act agencies to first standardized, then publish all of their spending data on one accounting platform. The open data law is a leading federal government effort through the inevitable transition from documents to data. I think of this transition as follows:
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- Reporting is shifting from "what I look like" documents to "what I mean" data.
- Data will not be just values but almost always "tagged" with terms that associate these values with descriptions of their specific meaning.
- Terms are defined in standardized formats that have shared dictionaries to bring consistent meaning to the values.
- Data is of increasing importance for evaluation and oversight as well as prediction.
- Data will replace pixel-perfect documents.