Home / Government / Articles / USAFacts presents its first-ever policy recommendations to Congress to enhance public data infrastructure

During the pandemic, the public needed actional public data — but couldn’t find it. The urgent need for granular, real-time metrics for decision-making demonstrated major pain points in government data. In a time of crisis, private actors including USAFacts had to step in to collect metrics where the federal government couldn’t, aggregating data for local public health authorities to guide public policy.

Local data should easily flow up to the federal agencies to be provided to Congress in a timely manner to inform policymaking. Unfortunately, this was not the case. 

USAFacts has hit the same data issues as Congress — and proposes fixes

USAFacts was born out of the idea that the public deserves to be able to quickly find and use government data, particularly institutions working towards the common good. In September 2023, USAFacts published its first-ever data report for Congress.

We interviewed 48 congressional staff to understand topics of interest to congressional offices to structure the report. These interviews spanned both the House of Representatives and the Senate and included Republican and Democratic offices. The report is a starting point for members of Congress and their staff to use in debates on policy. 

In the process of preparing this report, USAFacts encountered many of the same challenges Congress faces in accessing federal, state, and local numbers. In some cases, limited or deficient data makes it difficult to address key issues of national concern.  In response, the Annual Report to Congress also featured USAFacts’ first set of policy recommendations to improve government information. 

These recommendations target actions Congress can take to improve its internal workings. USAFacts recommends focusing on leveraging data and modern technology to support informed and outcomes-based lawmaking. We also strongly suggest congressional staff develop skills for working with data. Regarding federal agency data, USAFacts offers strategies for improving legislation, implementation, and oversight.

Evolving tech highlights the need for strong data

America stands at a critical turning point for data. The widespread public adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) means that the nation’s ability to succeed, both economically and socially, partly rests on training AI systems on robust, reliable data. The US government must prepare its data resources to interface with AI systems. It must also use data to assess AI outcomes, ensure fairness, and reduce misinformation. These recommendations are starting points for creating a modern public data ecosystem.

To read the full set of policy recommendations, explore America in Facts 2023. Get government data directly in your inbox by signing up for our email newsletter.