The V.I. Department of Education Friday kicked off what officials called a major collaborative effort between government and private sector stakeholders to collect relevant childhood, educational and workforce data on the territory’s population – put the territory at the forefront of national informational technology efforts.
The Virgin Islands Virtual Information System initiative was funded by a $2.6 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to support the design and implementation of the system, which will track and store data on each child in the territory from birth to adulthood, Government House announced Saturday.
According to the release, the system will also integrate all relevant educational and social services data currently being collected across government and through private non-profits and use it as the baseline for information gathered as the project moves forward.
The project was spearheaded by Gov. John deJongh Jr., who also serves as the head of the territory’s Data Governance Council. The Department of Education, under acting Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory, is the project’s sponsor, since much of the data relates to student issues and trends.
At Friday’s kickoff, Frett-Gregory explained that the system gives the government the ability to assign each child in the territory a unique ID at birth that will follow through their lives.
“VIVIS will automatically collect data associated with that unique ID and store it in a centralized data warehouse that will securely allow legally mandated key users to view protected data and other stakeholders to view summarized information reports," she said. The system, will also use predictive analytics to identify current and future trends to facilitate better decision making.
"It will also help us to identify what programs work and what programs need to be changed,” Frett-Gregory said.
Randolph Thomas, the department’s director of planning, research and evaluation, will head up the project. According to Thomas, educational data collected through the system will help identify students at risk of dropping out, pinpoint possible causes, and fuel targeted intervention programs that will propel students through college, or into the workforce.
Thomas described the VIVIS effort as the beginning of a major cultural shift that will lead to the development of a more knowledge and fact-based society capable of making informed decisions. It will fuel services that actually meet the needs of the territory’s children and adults, instead of just the collection of data that may never be used, he said.
DeJongh said another benefit of the VIVIS initiative is the solidification of efforts already under way throughout the government.
“This will allow us to take what all of you are doing separately every day and put it together in a very meaningful and systematic way,” the governor said at the kickoff event, which brought together representative from eight different departments, along with relevant social service organizations. “It will allow us to track a child from birth through higher education, and even into the workforce, and use that data to make meaningful decisions that will benefit the entire community.”