(US & Canada) | Enabling and Expanding Data Sharing Is an Explicit Goal for Us — USDA Deputy CDO

Fredy Diaz, Deputy CDO at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, speaks with Adita Karkera, CDO, Government and Public Services at Deloitte, in a video interview about his professional trajectory, the role of Deputy CDO in USDA, the five strategic goals of data strategy, and building process of data strategy.

USDA provides financial, disaster, and market opportunities for individuals and communities. Learn about USDA's priorities, programs, services, and resources for farmers, ranchers, and producers.

Diaz started his career in the Marine Corps’ aviation logistics space and fell in love with data analytics. He learned analysis and to tie it up to mission needs. After serving 9 years in the Marine Corps, Diaz worked for the Department of Defense in acquisition logistics. From there, he transitioned into the personal property manager role at the Department of Labor, where he learned about the GIS as a capability.

Prior to joining the Department of Agriculture, Diaz also served as the Director of Data Analytics at the USPS. Therein, he used analytics to perform oversight of postal services. He believes that his past work experiences help him fulfill his role as a Deputy CDO at the USDA.

Delving deeper into his role within the USDA organizational structure, Diaz mentions that his superior, the Chief Data and AI Officer, reports to the CIO office. He states that through the association with the CIO office, they can leverage interesting technology capabilities.

As a deputy CDO, he is a part of the USDA CDO Council, which consists of the CDAIO and eight assistant CDOs. Diaz says that as a senior advisor to the CDO, he provides different perspectives on mission needs and the potential course of action.

A part of Diaz’s day-to-day work is about building trustworthy relationships across the USDA. This trust-building act has enabled the department to leverage different initiatives with organizations by discussing strategies and pain points.

When asked to brief on the Chief Data and AI Officer, Diaz mentions Chris Alvarez, who serves in the positions of Chief Data Officer and Chief AI Officer. Expanding, he notes that the department is still in conversation about where to fit the AI governance functions. With Chris Alvarez in the role, the USDA is in discussion about what needs to be done on top of data governance to embrace AI.

Shedding light on the USDA's core data strategy, Diaz lists out five strategic goals:

  1. Strengthening data governance and leadership

  2. Recruiting, retaining, and upskilling workforce

  3. Maturing enterprise data platform

  4. Data sharing

  5. Investing in improved and ethical analytic processes

Emphasizing maturing the enterprise data platform, Diaz states that it depends on the role an agency plays within the federal setting. Stressing on USDA, he says that the department owns its data platform and is driven to find ways to mature it as the agency matures itself.

Also, Diaz refers to data sharing as an explicit goal, which the department wants to expand within the USDA, with the federal agencies externally, and with the public.

Circling back to his journey of building the data strategy, he recalls that the CDO tasked him with refreshing the data strategy at USDA. However, the CDO made it clear that the strategy should involve the entire department and should not become a CDO initiative.

To have a better understanding of what people knew about the existing data strategy, Diaz carried out listening sessions, surveys, and draft revisions. This approach identified successful areas and communication gaps.

Furthermore, the CDO team also got representatives from different departments who helped in writing the strategy. The goal was to avoid any shocks during the clearance process and ensure broad acceptance.

In conclusion, Diaz remarks that the collaboration paid off and the final strategy was accepted as a collective effort rather than a departmental strategy.

CDO Magazine appreciates Fredy Diaz for sharing his insights with our global community.

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