UALR's Information Quality Program Solves Data Dilemmas

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010 12:00 am  

There are many ways that organizations fail to get the full value out of their data. Sometimes it's a loss scenario, Talburt said.

"A lot of companies that buy or rent data don't really understand the overlaps and the redundancies in the data or even the quality," he said. "By understanding their information quality on the input side, they can avoid buying a lot of redundant data, they can understand the quality, and they can start using service-level agreements for the providers and not accepting information that's subpar."

The information quality degree "is not an IT course," Morgan said. "It's a course about disciplines and strategies that can deal with a complex problem. It's not, 'Here's a software tool you learn how to use.' It's a very, very broad, complicated topic that has an awful lot of facets to it."


IQ Drives Savings

Tonmoy Dasgupta, a database administrator with the Arkansas Department of Information Systems, earned an information quality master's degree in 2008.

The discipline involves "a mixture of technical as well as soft skills," Dasgupta said. The degree is "about quality and quality means change. You look at your process and you want to make it better and that involves change."

Among many other responsibilities, Dasgupta's agency is in charge of handling the massive phone bill for state offices. One project he and other DIS staff undertook was to resolve billing discrepancies for all those offices.

It was a complicated task, one that took about a year to really get under way and that is ongoing. But it is saving the state about $2 million a year in phone charges, Dasgupta said.

The first two Ph.D. graduates from UALR's information quality program were Neal Gibson and Greg Holland, both of whom graduated in May. Gibson is director of the Arkansas Research Center and Holland is the director of research and development at ARC.

The ARC, located at the University of Central Arkansas, was started in 2009 with a grant from the National Center for Education Statistics to the Arkansas Department of Education. The two also have master's degrees in information quality.

"The first project I ever did when I started the program was to look at dual enrollment in the state. That is, kids that were being claimed by two or more schools at the same time," Gibson said. "So we initiated a process to take care of that, and that has led to significant savings for the Arkansas Department of Education."

The program, which eliminated the redundant records, translated to about $10 million in savings for the ADE, Gibson said. The ADE gives money to districts for each student enrolled. That money, no longer going to multiple districts for the same student, is placed back in the department's general fund, he said.




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