Commerce Data Service: A Tale of Two Pillars

Jul082016

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Screenshot of the Commerce Data Service Website
Screenshot of the Commerce Data Service website

Fun fact: The world’s premier weather watcher, storm chaser and climate monitor – aka, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – gathers enough data every single day to fill the Library of Congress twice. 

The public also owns countless other terabytes of data that Commerce produces every day: Economic data, from jobs to paychecks to the products and services we make, provide and sell.  Trade data – imports and exports – drilled down to the commodity and the community.  Patent and trademark data about inventions and brands, from the first patent in 1790 for Samuel Hopkins’ crop fertilizer ingredient, signed by President Washington, to Patent 9371560 last month for, “methods for the automated reconstruction of a genotype of a gene, fragment, or genomic region using exhaustive enumeration.” 

The list of invaluable data that Commerce produces goes on and on.  As Secretary Pritzker said, Commerce is “America’s Data Agency.”  “No other department,” she said, “can rival the reach, depth, and breadth of our data programs.”

I’ve reiterated in my blogs how making the vast trove of Commerce data more accessible, useful and usable to the nation is one of the five pillars of Secretary Pritzker’s “Open for Business” strategy.  And now ESA is on point to help advance the data pillar.  But another job we all share is to advance one of the other five pillars, operational excellence. 

To me, “operational excellence” means thinking in new ways, and doing new things, to produce better results.  The entrepreneurs, exporters and inventors whose data we tally and seek to share do this every day.  Operational excellence means having the impatient innovator’s mentality.  Asking both why, and why not?  Playing by the rules, but exploring new ways.  Even in – perhaps especially in – environments that need to operate under tight boundaries like ours.

To me, that’s exactly what the relatively new Commerce Data Service (CDS) represents. 

CDS flips the script of how government works.  It’s a start-up with entrepreneurs and data experts from across government and Silicon Valley.  This team includes top-notch designers, developers, software engineers and data scientists who build new tools and products to deliver our data to people who need and can use it. 

Also unique: CDS is guided by outside advice and counsel, including leaders of some of the country’s most innovative tech companies.  And we’re building data skills at Commerce, and collaborating with private sector partners to showcase how they are using our data, so others can see and seize how to do it.

Secretary Pritzker’s operational excellence pillar challenges everyone to empower and engage employees, support a customer service-oriented culture, manage for results, and improve our facilities and services – and be responsive and nimble in adapting to the fast-changing needs of the 21st century economy. 

The Commerce Data Service is built on – and driven by – this latter challenge especially. Just ask Mapbox, the online mapping platform, which is collaborating with us to provide a tutorial on how to use NOAA’s rainfall data to help us understand our environment better, and improve forecasts.  Or Earth Genome, an environmental nonprofit, which is showing how to get started with NOAA’s topographical data – a fundamental element of their wetlands restoration model for informing industrial development decisions. No doubt many more fun facts from NOAA and across Commerce are coming.

Congrats to everyone who is driving our excellence in new, surprising and trailblazing ways.  

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