'it’s Important To Understand The Quality Of The Data You Have'

Interview with Vijay A D'Souza, Director of the Center for Enhanced Analytics at the US Government Accountability Office


Vijay D’Souza is the director of the Center for Enhanced Analytics at the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan Congressional watchdog. Vijay previously led audits of health care and information technology issues at GAO including areas such as improper payments, cyber security, and IT program management. Vijay has been at GAO since 2001. Prior to GAO, he worked on a fellowship for the US Agency for International Development as an advisor to a business consultancy in Amman, Jordan; and before that as a developer of technology training.

We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit, taking place in Chicago this November 29-30.

How did you get started in your career?

My career at GAO began somewhat due to chance. I was job hunting after being laid off during a tech downturn and met someone at a party who worked here and encourage me to apply. I loved the idea of combining analytical skills with the chance to improve how the government works. I also liked the constant variety of work that we do.

Do you think data science skills are transferable across industries, or is it important to have specialist knowledge?

I think both are true. Many skills are transferable, but you need the context that industry or program-specific knowledge provides. At GAO we have a central analytics organization that teams up with analysts who have specific knowledge of a program or issue area.

How do you think companies can most effectively use their data? Is it important to be data-driven, or enough to be data-informed? How should companies go about developing that culture?

It’s helpful to start with the key pain points and problems you have and then see what data exists or can be created to help address the problem. Sometimes just developing a way to track key metrics can help drive change. Then, depending on the level of effort required, implementing more sophisticated analytical techniques can help drive improvements. Regardless of the goals, it’s important to understand the quality of the data you have. The quality determines how much you can rely on the data to make good decisions.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I will discuss how GAO uses analytics to evaluate federal programs and provide some examples from recent work we have done. I will show how appropriate use of these techniques can help provide insights into the government and key public policy decisions. I will also spend some time discussing the challenges we face in using analytics for our work.

You can hear from Vijay, along with other experts in data analytics, at the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit. View the full agenda here.

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