Five years ago, the most comprehensive data governance law was passed in the U.S. On January 14, 2019, the “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018,” also known as the “Evidence Act,” was passed into law. The Evidence Act requires U.S. Government federal agencies to designate a nonpolitical appointee as Chief Data Officer (CDO) to lead data governance and data management, and partner with agency Chief Information Officers (CIO) to protect and safeguard data. The goals of the Evidence Act are laser-focused on creating the organizational infrastructure to leverage the power of data for the American people, but five years into passage, many agencies are just beginning to implement many of the key provisions.
Provision 1: Advance Evidence-Building Activities
Under Title I of the Evidence Act, evidence is defined as “information produced as a result of statistical activities conducted for a statistical purpose.” The Evidence Act requires federal agencies to designate three roles as key officials responsible for the implementation of the law: the CDO, the evaluation officer, and the statistical official. Each plays a critical role in advancing evidence-building activities, including but not limited to increasing the availability and quality of data and evidence necessary to make informed decisions.
Provision 2: Develop and Maintain a Comprehensive Data Inventory
Title II of the Evidence Act requires federal agencies to maintain a comprehensive data inventory and publish open data, using standardized, machine-readable data formats. The Evidence Act also establishes agency CDOs as the key responsible party for managing agency data assets and creating governance policies to enable data sharing.
Provision 3: Make Data Available Without Sacrificing Confidentiality
The Evidence Act codifies and revises the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA) by adding additional safeguards and clarifying the criteria for Statistical Agencies. Although over 125 federal agencies or units engage in statistical activities, most official federal statistics are produced by 13 agencies that have statistical work as their principal mission. These 13 agencies play a significant role in strengthening public trust and supplying data that supports global research. The Statistical Agencies often aggregate and de-identify large volumes of data collected from the American people.
Due to the massive undertakings of the Evidence Act, it is easy to see why the implementation of the provisions is not yet complete. As recently as six months ago, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) introduced proposed rules and guidance for CIPSEA, and at the time of publication of this article, OMB had not yet delivered guidance on phases 2 and 3 of the Evidence Act.
For data governance professionals, the implementation of the Evidence Act offers a great opportunity to support federal agencies as they select tools, technologies, and staff to support their compliance and unleash the power of their data.