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In the State of California, firefighters are getting help with organized and accessible data.

Through the use of smartphones and ruggedized laptops, firefighters can access applications and use online portals to control blazes with aerial photos and statistics on ground moisture and wind. Effective data management has literally brought mission critical information directly into firefighters’ hands.

Tim Garza, Director of IT at the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), said in a recent CIO magazine article that the apps and portals allow firefighters to have logistical support on the ground in real time. Garza explains, “Fires aren’t static, so they have to make decisions on the spot, [like] where are they going to cut the flames off and where are they going to try to redirect it.”

Leveraging Internally Available Agency Data

State and local agencies have taken steps in recent years to make better use of the vast amounts of data they constantly collect. In 2009, California state officials surveyed eight state agencies, including the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), to get a perspective on the use of data management. Officials found state agencies didn’t use standardized data nor did they coordinate well which, among other problems, minimized the information’s usefulness.

Since then, California continues to put more of its data into usable forms with the support of private sector. Research from Onvia’s Term Contract Center revealed that in 2014 alone, California state agencies announced 425 data management bids and requests for proposals, and awarded 83 contracts. Half of the outstanding contract opportunities are labeled as IT/telecommunications. Beyond that, 30% of bids and RFPs are under architectural and engineering, with 70% of those labeled as “environmental,” such as services related to water quality and clean and wastewater usage.

Of the 425, 28% are labeled Business and Consulting Services—nearly 40% of those going for health care.

Cities, counties and school districts released 35% of data management services bids and RFPs in 2014. Local governments made 275 contract awards.

Example In December, the California Department of Health Care Services awarded a $1.5 million contract to Natus Medical to support with the state’s Newborn Hearing Screening Program Infant Data Management System.

Example Among school districts, the Long Beach Unified School District in California awarded a three-year, $2.1 million contract to Ceridian Benefits for health and welfare benefit administration services, which includes data management services.

Onvia research shows that across the United States, California’s and Massachusetts’ state agencies solicited and awarded 24% of more than 4,500 data management-related contracts in 2014.

Massachusetts counties released and awarded 40% of solicitations and requests for information. In addition, municipal authorities in Massachusetts made up 41% of solicitations in 2014.

Example The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a data management solicitation in October 2014 to better understand current and potential capabilities for data management systems to run reports about the access students have to educators and to educational opportunities.

Using Data Externally Creates Agency Transparency

While state and local agencies are gathering more data for internal improvements, agencies often times employ data to show constituents how and what the agencies are doing as well.

Last year, Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence set up the Management and Performance Hub website. His goal is to “have the most effective, efficient, and transparent state government in the country,” according to state’s website. Hoosiers now can find information on economic development projects, examine local governments’ budgets and spending, and check on the status and success of state programs.

Well-Managed Data Increases Agency Efficiency and Effectiveness

Overall, state and local agencies are tapping data management as they consider how to put their storehouses of data to work for the benefit of agencies and their constituents. As state and local agencies continue to realize the value of internally available data, government IT vendors should see continued opportunity growth as well.

Whether firefighters are extinguishing forest fires or nurses are testing newborns’ hearing, well-managed data allows state and local agencies to have a complete picture of all practices, programs and projects and then learn where to tweak their operations to become more efficient and effective.