New Jersey and Data-Driven Innovation: Imperfect Together

Garden State just squeaks into top half of states doing good job encouraging and enabling use of new data technologies, digital infrastructure

New Jersey barely made it into the top half of the states doing a good job encouraging and enabling data-driven innovation, according to a new report.

“The Best States for Data Innovation,” a report issued last Friday by the nonpartisan Center for Data Innovation, based in Washington, D.C., ranked New Jersey 23rd based on 25 indicators related to data and new technology availability and usage, as well as the digital infrastructure, technology-related education, and open data-related jobs and companies.

Because data, computers and technology are significant drivers of society and the economy, policymakers should be supporting and investing resources to make their states leaders in data-driven innovation, the report contends. This includes the development and growth of data-driven companies, as well as the use of data to address important priorities, such as improving healthcare, reducing crime, developing sustainable communities, and improving schools.

Long-term implications of today’s decisions

“Decisions that policymakers make today to encourage data-driven innovation will have long-term implications for states’ future growth and their residents’ quality of life,” said Daniel Castro, director of the DCI and lead author of the report. “Early adopters will benefit immediately from using data to make headway in addressing social challenges from energy efficiency to affordable healthcare. By positioning themselves at the forefront of data innovation, states will also be able to grow and attract the right kinds of companies to become hubs of the data economy.”

The center’s analysis is the first to assess state’s relative strength in three categories critical to encouraging and enabling data-driven innovation. It looks at: data, including the extent to which key datasets are available; technology, including the availability of broadband internet and other key digital infrastructure; and the number of open data companies in the state and the size of the data science community.

New Jersey is among the best states in some of the areas the center considers important, and among the worst in others:

  • 2nd for computer science and statistics Advanced Placement tests. In 2015, 14.1 of 100 students who took AP tests were tested in computer science and statistics and they scored an average 3.3 out of 5. Students who take computer science and statistics in high school, in addition to being more data literate, are more likely to major in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — in college and go into STEM fields.
  • 4th in software service jobs. 2.05 percent of all those employed were working as computer programmers, software developers, and computer and information-systems managers. These jobs are an important part of a state’s knowledge economy and help businesses and institutions collect, share, and analyze data.
  • 47th for the use of “smart meters” for electricity. Not quite 1 percent of all residential, commercial and industrial users had a smart meter, with enhanced, two-way communication technology that provides information to energy providers and consumers about prices, usage patterns, and inefficiencies, in 2015. In only eight other states were fewer than 10 percent of meters smart; Maine had the highest proportion – more than 90 percent.
  • 50th for the percentage of doctors and hospitals using electronic health records. The report ranked this important because it said data sharing is required to reduce healthcare costs, increase patient safety, and improve quality of care. In 2015, 84 percent of hospitals nationally had at least a basic electronic health record system, but only three quarters of New Jersey hospitals had adopted such a system, as had 62 percent of doctors.
  • New Jersey also got mixed marks for its public data. The highest ranking, ninth, was for legislative data, while the lowest, 29th, was for government finance data, with a ranking of 12th for education data. As for access to government data, New Jersey ranked only 31st, with the report relying heavily on the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 Corruption Risk Index, on which New Jersey had received a grade of D.

    Top-ranked states

    The five top-ranked states — Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, California, and Delaware — are thriving hubs of data-driven innovation, support STEM in public schools, invest in e-government, implement robust open-data policies, and promote the deployment of health information technology.

    The CDI called on state policymakers to encourage and enable data-driven innovation by ensuring that high-value datasets are publicly available, key digital infrastructure is widely deployed, and necessary human capital and business resources are in place.

    “While the data economy is rapidly maturing, these are still early days,” said Castro. “Policymakers who want to maximize their state’s potential to leverage data for social and economic good should continue investing now in the data, technology, and people necessary for data-driven innovation to flourish.”

    It made a number of recommendations that states should take to become better data innovators, including:

  • Publish checkbook-level government financial data online in open and machine-readable formats.
  • Develop an open data portal and statewide open data policy.
  • Develop a publicly accessible all-payer health-claims database.
  • Work with state utility commissions and utility providers to accelerate the adoption of smart meters.
  • Support efforts to increase broadband access and improve broadband speeds.
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    The Best States for Data Innovation: NJ Rankings
    CategoryFirstname Ranking (of 50 states)
    Ensuring data is available for use 29
    Legislative Data 9
    Government Financial Data 29
    Education Data 12
    E-prescribing 25
    Health-care Price Transparency 8
    Energy Usage Data 8
    Building Energey Efficient Data 22
    Public Access to Government Info 31
    Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) Laws 32
    Enabline Key Technology Platforms 37
    Broadband 7
    Smart Meters 47
    Transit Information Systems 3
    Electronuc Health Records 50
    Internet of Things: Consumer Devices 32
    Open-Data Portals 11
    E-Government 43
    Developing Human and Business Capital 9
    Computer Science and Statistics AP Tests 2
    STEM Degrees 34
    Software Service Jobs 4
    Statistics Jobs 24
    Data Science Job Listings 7
    Open Data 500 Companies 10
    Information and Data-Processing Sector 12
    Federal Funding for Data Science R&D 16
    Data Science Community 16

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