In Chamberworld, “policy development” is the process of identifying issues of public concern and proposing well-researched solutions that can be implemented by policymakers. This usually comes in the form of legislation, administrative rule or executive order.

The Indiana Chamber has 14 committees that develop policy on broad ranges of subject matter including higher education, civil justice, energy, infrastructure, health care and the environment – all focusing on “issues of broad business interest.”

The end of the legislative session marks the beginning of policy development season. I am the staff liaison for the Chamber’s Technology and Economic Development policy committees, which are chaired by John McDonald (ClearObject) and Larry Gigerich (Ginovus), respectively. Our policy development began by discussing areas in which Indiana needs to improve and identifying states that are performing well.

A common buzz phrase in policy development is “data-driven” (or “evidence-based”) policy; in other words, using empirical evidence to dictate government action (or inaction). Colorado, for example, instituted evidence-based policymaking in 2011 by establishing a “Results First” team inside its Office of State Planning and Budgeting.

This team has helped Colorado to: (i) build knowledge of what programs work and those that do not; (ii) promote investment in effective programming; and (iii) improve the way evidence informs the budget process. Washington, Oregon and Tennessee have laws mandating the use of evidence-based policymaking, which have resulted in prioritizing programs that work when making funding decisions.

A central component to data-driven policy development, however, is accessing relevant data. Unfortunately for our policy committees – and Indiana as a whole – we lack a central repository of data to facilitate innovative solutions. And, indications are, lawmakers are erring on the side of data privacy rather than data sharing despite foreseeable negative implications.

Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation and California’s Consumer Privacy Act are two examples of laws that will likely have detrimental, albeit unintended, consequences on small businesses. American Enterprise Institute scholar Bret Swanson argues that as “data collection, creation and analysis become more important … privacy questions and policy challenges will multiply.”

Data and technology are poised to revolutionize many sectors of our economy, including policy development. The question is, will we let them?

Adam H. Berry is vice president of economic development and technology at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He joined the organization in 2019.