MARINA PITOFSKY/THE HOYA Provost Robert Groves spoke at the Beeck Center’s “Data for Social Good” series Wednesday.
Provost Robert Groves spoke at the Beeck Center’s “Data for Social Good” series Wednesday.

The innovative use of data will significantly benefit the next White House administration, according to a new report by the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation and the McCourt School of Public Policy.

Sponsored by the Case Foundation, Nielsen and the Democracy Fund, the report —  titled “The Architecture of Innovation: Institutionalizing Innovation in Federal Policy Making” — was released and presented at the second session of the Beeck Center’s “Data for Social Good” series  Wednesday.

The report outlined suggestions to both Republican and Democratic presidential transition teams and encouraged hiring more technologically skilled employees throughout the public sector and incorporating technological innovation in city planning.

Beeck Center Executive Director Sonal Shah outlined the report and said the center is ready to start pursuing these goals and initiating policy discussions.

“We are thrilled with this report and also the incredible response that we’ve gotten on how to think about this architecture in the nation and government, especially in the federal government, and how to really think about these issues on a state level, but even internationally at the same time,” Shah said.

University Provost Robert Groves also discussed the need for new data ethics in the field, specifically citing how ethics should play a larger role in both data collection and use.

“This is a moment in time where we all collectively need to develop a new ethical framework for the treatment of data,” Groves said. “This phrase ‘data ethics’ is a term that we at Georgetown have been talking a lot about, and that both means the use of data for ethical purposes but also the inclusion of all sections of the population covered by data in order to drive our research.”

Groves added that data ethics are important for the university and other peer institutions that view community service and care for others as core aspects of their missions.

“We’re here because I think we share the belief that investing in data can help to increase both the understanding of us as a people, as a society, that human behavior that drives societal improvements and thereby improves public policy,” Groves said. “This is an institution that is devoted to service to others, and we think data can be a force for social good, so let’s hope that we’re devoting our energy to that.”

The event also featured a fireside chat with U.S. Chief Data Scientist in the Office of Science and Technology Policy DJ Patil, Executive Director for the Deloitte Center for Government Insights William D. Eggers and Dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy Edward Montgomery. A panel discussion with Executive Director of the International Business Machines Center for the Business of Governance Daniel Chenok, professor and former Dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy Donald Kettl, Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia Archana Vemulapalli and National Director of the U.S. Cyber Challenge Karen Evans followed.

Sunil Ishairzay, a managing partner of sustainable development nonprofit Earthopia who attended the event, said he was interested in how the speakers and the report connect data with other global issues such as rural development and democratization.

“Technology is one of the areas that we’re really looking to to help with a lot of these rural development areas so that they can leapfrog into different stages,” Ishairzay said. “I’m also interested to see how they use data not just as a tool for governance, but also how they can use it for actual social good and to make it useful for democratization, for true democracy, to give people a voice.”

Clara Cecil (MSB ’18), who also attended the event, said she was interested in use of data as a tool for service and hoped the event would touch on how data can work to solve global environmental issues.

“I’m really interested in using data for the betterment of society. I’m curious as to how it will be used in the next administration,” Cecil said. “I would like to see a connection with the environment and how that plays into all of these things, and especially how that will impact data in the years to come.”

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