Chances are very good that the last call you received from a congressional campaign was personal. A volunteer chose your seven-digit number, out of thousands in the ward, because an algorithm comparing dozens of data points on when you registered, how you’ve voted, and what kind of truck you drive suggested that you were persuadable. The pitch was calibrated according to the magazines to which you subscribe and your credit history. The result of the call was recorded by the campaign, to be considered alongside the outcomes of other calls being made concurrently to people that – the data suggested – were an awful lot like you, in order to better persuade the next voter. This is what integrated data looks like on the campaign trail: dozens of linked datasets, sophisticated modeling, message testing, and a significant edge over the retail politics of yesteryear for candidates who can afford it.
By comparison, the educators, counselors and social workers hired by local governments to serve our communities’ most vulnerable youth and families are working in a digital dark age. With few exceptions: