Pritzker announces Commerce chief data officer position

Commerce Department Secretary Penny Pritzker announced Monday her department’s plan to hire its first ever chief data officer, an effort to expand Commerce’s role as “America’s data agency.”

At the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference in San Diego, Calif., Pritzker emphasized the importance of data collection within her department, which “literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun,” she said.

“It is not hyperbole to call the Department of Commerce, ‘America’s Data Agency,'” Pritzker said in her statement at the conference. “No other department can rival the reach, depth, and breadth of our data programs: Our data efforts are rooted in the Constitution, which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Census Bureau and the Patent and Trademark Office, two key data agencies housed at the Commerce Department.”

Putting those words into action, Pritzker introduced several new data-centric initiatives to the audience, including a report on the value of federal government statistical programs, a new department data advisory council, a developer portal for the International Trade Administration and, most importantly, the creation of a chief data officer position.


“Our chief data officer will be responsible for developing and implementing a vision for the future of our diverse data resources,” the secretary said. “Our chief data officer will pull together a platform for all of our data sets; oversee improvements in data collection and dissemination; and ensure our data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic. Put simply, our chief data officer will hold the key to unlocking more of our government data.”

Details on the new position are fairly minimal. A Commerce representative said the department is looking to find someone as soon as possible who understands government data and resources and the way it can benefit Commerce’s understanding of the American economy, environment and people.

But one thing is apparent after Pritzker’s address: She’s a “data nut,” which she personally acknowledged, and Commerce is ready to take its data efforts to the next level.

“[D]ata is more than a set of numbers entered into a spreadsheet,” she said. “Data can deliver better health outcomes. Data can generate increased economic growth. Data can drive innovation in our society – innovation that improves the lives of millions every day. I am proud to be part of an administration that understands the strategic value of data, with a president who sincerely believes in the promise of open data. We are just beginning to scratch the surface; we are just starting to understand the broad possibilities of data.”

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