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LEARN > Evidence Act Hub > New Survey of Federal Chief Data Officers Outlines Mission Challenges

New Survey of Federal Chief Data Officers Outlines Mission Challenges

and Opportunities in the Age of AI

"Data Foundation and Deloitte survey finds that 95 percent of CDOs will consider implementing artificial intelligence technologies in the next year, but face several barriers to success – including resources, skill gaps, and a lack of authority."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dec. 19, 2023 – The Data Foundation, in collaboration with Deloitte, unveiled the 2023 Federal Chief Data Officer (CDO) Survey, which found that federal CDOs made much progress advancing data culture, governance, and analytics goals, but still experience consistent challenges accessing adequate resources, staff skills, and authorities.

The 2023 Federal CDO Survey also found that CDOs plan to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and other emerging technology in 2024. In order to successfully leverage these cutting-edge technologies, federal CDOs say they need more clarification from agency leadership about their roles and responsibilities.

“CDOs are making tremendous progress in better using data, often that the government has been collecting from the American public for years,” said Nick Hart, President of the Data Foundation. “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 report on the survey, Enabling Mission Success: A 2023 Survey of Federal Chief Data Officers, offers insight into the evolving role of the federal CDO since the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, including the factors that enable and hinder CDO missions. Survey topics included organizational structure, resources, professional experience, CDO mission, collaboration, organizational strategy, challenges and guidance related to the CDO community, and the CDO role in emerging technologies.

“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,” said Adita Karkera, chief data officer for Deloitte’s government and public services practice. “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.”

Key findings from the 2023 Federal CDO Survey include: 

  • CDO functions are organized inconsistently across agencies. CDOs continue to report to a variety of leadership roles including CIOs, Chief Operating Officers, and other roles.  
  • CDOs and CIOs have an opportunity for a closer working relationship. Most federal CDOs perceive that their missions complement the goals and priorities of their agency’s CIO, but more than half of CDOs who report to CIOs find their reporting structure difficult to navigate.
  • CDOs have extensive federal experience, despite the new role in agencies. 89% of CDOs reported working in the federal government for over 10 years, and just over half (52%) said their agencies established the CDO role in the last three to five years.  
  • Data governance and strategy are central to the CDO mission. Top priorities for federal CDOs include developing and implementing data strategy or governance (28%), facilitating data-driven decision-making at all levels (21%), and improving data infrastructure (20%).  
  • The CDO role is expanding to include innovative emerging technologies. More than half of federal CDOs are already using basic or advanced AI, and almost all (95%) CDOs are considering adopting AI in their organization in various capacities over the next year – a significant increase from last year’s survey, which found that 45% of CDOs had no AI responsibility in 2022.

The report includes four recommendations for the CDO community, including related to clarifying CDO authorities, training, resources, and ethical guidance for AI use. 

The recommendations and full report on the 2023 Federal CDO Survey are available on the Data Foundation website.

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About Data Foundation: The Data Foundation is a national non-profit organization that champions the use of open data and evidence-informed public policy to make society better for everyone. We are the trusted authority on the use of open, accessible data to fuel a more efficient, effective, and accountable government; spark innovation; and provide insights to the country’s most pressing challenges. As a nonpartisan think tank, we conduct research, collaborative thought leadership, and advocacy programs that advance practical policies for the creation and use of accessible, trustworthy data.

About Deloitte: Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500® and more than 8,500 U.S.-based private companies. At Deloitte, we strive to live our purpose of making an impact that matters by creating trust and confidence in a more equitable society. We leverage our unique blend of business acumen, command of technology, and strategic technology alliances to advise our clients across industries as they build their future. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Bringing more than 175 years of service, our network of member firms spans more than 150 countries and territories. Learn how Deloitte’s approximately 457,000 people worldwide connect for impact at www.deloitte.com.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Federal CDO Survey Methods:

The findings presented in this report reflect results from the Data Foundation's fourth survey of Federal Chief Data Officers, which collected data from federal department-, agency-, and bureau-level CDOs and Statistical Officials across the federal government. Participants were invited by email to complete a web-based survey in September and October 2023, with multiple rounds of non-response follow-up.

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