Opportunities of administrative data-sharing for the social sector

(Michael Lenczner) #1

A few weeks ago, we highlighted different types of open data that nonprofits could leverage in their work. This week, we want to discuss a new category of data—that’s not open data—that we’re just as excited about, because we think it could be transformative for the social sector.

We want to talk to you about administrative data.

What is administrative data?
Administrative data is data drawn from government and social service client records. Think of data that exist for for operational purposes: client health records, education records, birth records, etc… These are data that’s collected so that services can function smoothly—with no intention of having it analyzed or interpreted in the future. (So - any sort of census or survey data would not be administrative data, since these kinds of datasets are intentionally collected for research purposes!)

How is it different from open data?
Because this information is drawn from person-level records, for privacy and security reasons, administrative data can never be made openly available to the public.

Under certain regulated circumstances, however, administrative data can be shared between government ministries, and sometimes nonprofits and academic researchers. This kind of data-sharing between sector stakeholders is where administrative data can offer value to nonprofits, service providers and policymakers!

Why would data from person-level records be useful?
Some examples of information contained in administrative records could include: who graduated high school, who accessed medical services, or who has been incarcerated. Again—this can never be made publicly available—but, when anonymized and aggregated, this data holds rich information on social outcomes. This, in turn, could help illuminate what effect social programs or policy interventions have on their beneficiaries. For example, the Justice Data Lab in the UK is a research centre that helps nonprofits working with past offenders analyze data from the Ministry of Justice on the reoffending rates of their program participants.

This kind of data-sharing is only happening to a limited extent in Canada, but there’s even more opportunities it could offer the social sector—including more collaborative care and service delivery, richer social research, and evidence-based policy. Our nonprofit, Powered by Data, is developing a plan to co-create a policy agenda around administrative data-sharing with a diverse coalition of stakeholders from Ontario’s social sector. If you’re interested in learning more, read our latest Powered by Data blog post, [here](https://poweredbydata.org/blog/2018/5/2/were-excited-about-administrative-data-sharing)!

Exploring the risks of sharing and linking administrative data