Federal chief data officers are embracing artificial intelligence but face challenges tied to resources, staff skillsets and lack of authority, according to a survey of federal CDOs released Tuesday.
The nonprofit Data Foundation and Deloitte’s fourth annual Federal Chief Data Officers survey found that in order to successfully leverage cutting-edge technologies within their agencies, federal CDOs say they need more clarification from agency leadership about their roles and responsibilities.
“The 2023 Federal CDO survey underscores the continued expansion of the federal CDO role, including the critical function that federal CDOs play in their agency’s efforts to successfully adopt and implement AI technologies,” Adita Karkera, chief data officer for Deloitte’s government and public services practice, said in a statement. “Our survey also finds that providing federal CDOs with more resources and authorities can help agencies maximize the use of data to improve the delivery of important government services for people and families across the country.”
The role of CDOs within federal agencies as well as the CDO Council was established by Congress within a statute of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which required federal agencies to base new policy on data and created CDO roles responsible for cultivating agency data strategies.
The CDO Council is ushering in new leadership, Energy Department CDO Rob King announced during a live event Tuesday. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission CDO Kirsten Dalboe will be the new chair, King said, while he will assume the role of vice chair.
Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, said in a statement that “CDOs are key partners for program managers and the American people to enable data to be valuable and used, but CDOs also need the resources, guidance, and authority to ensure their role can effectively achieve the vision of the Evidence Act and be a core agency function.”
The Data Foundation and Deloitte outlined the following four key recommendations based on the 2023 CDO survey findings:
- “Clarify CDO authorities and responsibilities to optimize organizational data and technology capabilities.
- Provide training, professional development, and change management support to build maturity of CDO roles and data governance functions across federal agencies.
- Equip CDOs with resources and staff needed to fully execute their mission of improving data infrastructure, governance, analytics, and strategic data use.
- Develop clear ethical guidelines and governance frameworks to support CDOs in responsibly adopting emerging technologies like AI in service of their public mission.”