North Carolina prepares data visualization studio

After saving billions on unemployment insurance debt, the state's data division is expanding.

North Carolina will expand its Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC) next month, building on the cost savings and insights imparted to agencies across the state in recent years. The new office is called the Data Visualization Studio (DVS) and is intended to make GDAC’s work more visible and comprehensible.

The studio’s launch follows the departure of the state’s former Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Eric Ellis, who took a position in the private sector earlier this month. The change precipitated a minor restructuring of the state’s Department of Information Technology. Innovation Center (iCenter) Deputy Director Deante Tyler took over as director, now reporting to John Correllus, the state’s chief data officer, deputy chief information officer and leader of the state’s data division.

The new studio will support the work already underway since GDAC was moved under the then Office of Information Technology Services in 2014, Correllus said. Recent achievements credited to GDAC include a reduction of unemployment insurance debt from $3 billion to less than $1 billion, the integration of a criminal justice application that delivers information to more than 30,000 personnel for enhanced decision-making and support of experimental data analytics programs centered around early intervention in juvenile justice and child welfare.

“The success of the studio is really going to be the success of the business,” Correllus said. “We’re not jumping in a room and talking about cool technologies. What we’re talking about is the business of the state and how we can leverage the data we’re already currently investing in to transform North Carolina across all the agencies.”


Correllus characterized GDAC as a trusted partner for all agencies that spans the state. The idea behind data analytics, he said, is to embed the knowledge gained in existing processes so people who aren’t data scientists can use the information to do their jobs better. North Carolina is already doing some of that, and DVS is intended to expand its reach further.

“A great example would be government transparency,” Correllus said. “Gov. [Pat] McCrory is trying to be real transparent about how government’s run, about where money is being spent. So, one of the visualizations we want to focus on is around open budget, where we’re actually showing where the dollars coming into North Carolina are being spent and who actually those monies are going to. It’s a citizen-oriented way that you can see … how much is being spent for different departments.”

Law enforcement and emergency management benefit from GDAC via an enhanced in-car records system called the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data System (CJLEADS). It’s common for police to have access to some records, but CJLEADS gives personnel access to analytics derived from 14 data sources, bridging courts and law enforcement systems. The idea, Correllus said, is to keep officers safe by equipping them with as much information as possible when interacting with citizens.

This data division, he added, was useful when Hurricane Matthew struck the state earlier this month. One of the office’s operations includes the collection of aerial orthophotography. This photographic process scans the state incrementally, with a complete set of images completed every four years. Data collected for 26 of the state’s eastern, coastal counties hit by Matthew gave emergency responders access to valuable imagery for decision making.

The data division has 25 “work streams” embedded in agencies throughout the state, Correllus said, and adding DVS to the mix should yield new positive results immediately. The plan is to show data trends of the past, but also to project into the future and continue to identify ways to cut costs while projecting a vision for a true data-driven government.

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