Krista Kinnard, chief of emerging technologies at the Department of Labor (DoL), said this week that her agency recently received its second round of Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) funding, and described how DoL is using that money to build out its data management and data analytics capabilities.

Speaking at General Dynamics Information Technology’s Emerge 2021 digital modernization conference on April 6, Kinnard said DoL is “incredibly data-rich.” But she also said there are areas where the agency remains “information poor,” and could improve upon its data capabilities.

“Data is a huge priority for the Department of Labor right now,” Kinnard said. “What we are really trying to focus on is how do we take these vast amounts of data that we actually do have and house them in such a way, and make them accessible in such a way that different agencies with different priorities can leverage this data to gain insight, to drive decision making, to really ensure that the way that we’re delivering services is fast, effective, and streamlined.”

“We also have a deep priority around protecting that data. At the Department of Labor, our number one priority is protecting and serving the workers of this country,” she added. “We want to ensure that every worker in this country gets the protection, the security, and really the assurance that they deserve when they give us their data.”

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According to a March 12 press release, the TMF Board awarded DOL $9.6 million to modernize its enterprise data infrastructure. Kinnard said part of this modernization effort also includes data ethics, and emphasized that the agency has a responsibility to protect and evaluate workers’ data “to ensure that all workers of this country are represented.”

“We want to make sure that our data sets represent what America actually looks like,” Kinnard said. “We’re not just building technology for the sake of technology, we are building technology to empower our agency to deliver on its mission to the American people.”

Another panelist at the Emerge 2021 conference – Melvin Greer, chief data scientist for the Americas at Intel – agreed with Kinnard and said going forward, “the most significant thing that is going to happen” with data is “making sure we have diverse voices in the development and use of data, or our ability to harness the power of a wide variety of people in this discussion of how data fuels innovation.”

Greer said using data to represent every citizen is just “starting to happen now,” but predicted that data diversity will soon play a huge role in delivering mission outcomes for the citizen.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.