Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves talks about the importance of data during the “Mississippi: A Data Driven State” summit Friday at The Mill at MSU Conference Center. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
September 24, 2016 10:14:33 PM
For Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, accurate data is a crucial key to governing effectively.
Reeves spoke on data and how it can drive the state toward future successes on Friday at The Mill at MSU conference center in Starkville.
Mississippi State University hosted the "Mississippi: A Data Driven State" summit throughout the day, drawing state leaders in economic development, education and government to the conference center. The summit featured several speakers and panels, as well as afternoon breakout sessions that addressed data in government, workforce development and education.
Reeves, during his lunch keynote, said Mississippi has to focus on continuing to lead the nation in using data to make the state better. He encouraged those in attendance who work with data in any capacity to continue striving to improve Mississippi.
"It is imperative that we continue to get the best data possible," Reeves said. "Because we can only make the best decisions possible to make Mississippi a better place if we are getting the best information from you."
Reeves said government leaders use data to inform their decision, including whether to eliminate certain corporate taxes on Mississippi businesses.
He said the information can track Mississippi's progress in other areas. For example, Reeves said that five years ago, the nation's graduation rate was 82 percent. Mississippi's sat at 70.5 percent.
Last year, in the most recent available data, Mississippi's graduation rate rose to 80.5 percent, while the national average held steady.
Reeves said last year, Mississippi fourth graders scored at the national average on reading assessments, which is the best state fourth grade students have performed in at least the last 30 to 40 years.
"Often times we find ourselves apologizing or trying to make excuses for our challenges when we ought to be willing to brag about the progress that has been made," he said.
Friday's summit focused on data available through the State Longitudinal Data System, also known as LifeTracks. NSPARC (National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center) at MSU manages data for the system.
LifeTracks, according to its website, "conducts traditional/basic research studies to address questions relevant to education, workforce, and economic development." The system provides workforce, education and demographic data.
LifeTracks is accessible online at www.lifetracks.ms.gov.
NSPARC Executive Director Mimmo Parisi said it's important to focus on how research and scholarship can further innovations that create better tools -- whether in the form of services or technologies -- to help state government operate more efficiently.
"In the last 15 years, we've been able to do something no other state has been able to do," he said. "We have reduced the cost of government by making data part of the business operation."
MSU President Mark Keenum, who introduced Reeves for his address, said technology plays a crucial role in data gathering and management. He said MSU's supercomputer, along with one at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg and another at the Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, give the state a great deal of computational ability.
"The state of Mississippi has some of the most outstanding computational capability of any state in the nation," Keenum said. "That's huge for a state like Mississippi to have that kind of computational firepower that we can use to grow our state economically.
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