The Value of Federal Government Data

The U.S. federal government is probably the one of the biggest (if not the biggest) producers of data. Every day, thousands of federal workers collect, create, analyze, and distribute massive amounts of data from weather forecasts to economic indicators to health statistics. Federal government data is a major driver of the American economy as businesses use the data to make decisions or blend the government data into products and services sold to consumers.

An illustration of a team of figures working on analytics reports.

z_wei/iStock/Thinkstock

Just how valuable is federal government data? How is the value of information measured? A recent book attempts to develop a framework to monetize, manage, and measure data as an organizational asset. Infonomics is the framework for helping organizations best value and manage their data assets. Although infonomics is intended for private sector organizations, I can see many applications for federal agencies.

Probably the most valuable infonomics concepts are the Information Performance Gap (IPG) and the Information Vision Gap (IVP). The IPG is the “difference between the realized value of the information asset and its probable value.” Closely related is the IVP which is the “difference between the probable and potential information valuations.” These concepts are valuable to federal agencies because it gives a new perspective on federal data. As agencies work with their data, are the agencies fully realizing the value of government information? With the emerging techniques of infonomics, agencies can better measure the value of their information.

Accurately measuring the value of federal data will aid agencies in digitally transforming. In an earlier column, I described a four-step process to transform agencies:

  1. Locating and preparing the data assets
  2. Establishing data partnerships
  3. Leadership views data as a strategic asset
  4. Using data for organizational innovation

Using IPG and IVP to measure federal agency information will help senior leadership best extract the full value of the information for organizational innovation. Infonomic measurement techniques will give a monetary value to federal information which will aid senior leaders in making return-on-investment and budgetary decisions about the data.

Another useful application of infonomics is using it in mapping data ecosystems. An earlier column described a project by the Congressional Research Service to map the big data ecosystem of agriculture. The purpose of the mapping project was to give a “high-level overview of how big data flows in the agriculture ecosystem.” Using the infonomic measures, we can also more accurately track how value is created and distributed in big data ecosystems.

Federal government data plays a large role in the American economy, but this role has been obscured because it is difficult to measure the value of information. With the emergence of infonomics, we have methods for better measuring and managing the value of information. Once citizens can see the monetary impact of Federal government data, citizens and businesses will help in closing the information performance gap to realize the full value of federal government data.


(All references to specific products, brands, and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.)

Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.

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