Data-Driven Innovation in North Carolina


I grew up in the small town of Lexington, NC….think Normal Rockwell and Main Street, USA with plenty of BBQ and friendly smiles. I attended NC State University in Raleigh, NC and was the first in my family to live outside of the state of North Carolina since my ancestors came to the ‘Old North State’ before the Revolutionary War. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to read an article on how my native state was using data to drive innovation and particularly two cities that are dear to me personally. Today I want to discuss how Winston-Salem and Raleigh are leading the way in North Carolina data-driven innovation.

In his book The Laws of Disruption, Larry Downes says that, “ the accident-prone intersection of innovation and law, clashes between business and consumers, business and government and governments and their citizens are growing in frequency and number.” This quote rings particularly true in the city of Winston-Salem where they have launched a new web feature to track projects that citizens voted for in the November 2014 bond referendum. This type of fiscal transparency data can be shared in an easy-to-understand format and could be a model to other cities in North Carolina and around the country. This open data innovation ultimately improves trust and accountability at the local government level and engages citizens.

Another program featuring data-driven innovation in North Carolina is the City of Raleigh’s Open Data Portal. In contrast to Winston-Salem’s data solution, Raleigh has featured over 1,000 data sets organized by sectors such as Finance, Public Safety, Sustainability, etc. There is also a Developer Portal for building and coding fun. Although adding more data increases the confusion potential, it models data portals at the federal level such as Project Open Data and Data.GOV in terms of content scope and design.

The North Carolina Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC) in Raleigh manages the North Carolina Financial Accountability and Compliance Technology System that uses predictive modeling and threat mapping to detect fraud and enhance risk management at the state and local level. Users need a login to access this system and can request a login by contacting GDAC. This last example is an opportunity for process improvement that could be implemented to disseminate this government data.

These are only a few examples of analytics-driven innovation in North Carolina, but they hopefully indicate a larger trend toward government embracing the power of data. By implementing a comprehensive strategy to sharpen raw data into a tool, governments and organizations can use the information at their disposal to derive crucial insights, enhance program performance, and craft a better tomorrow for the citizens they serve.

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