Summit showcases Mississippi as leader in putting data to use

Contact: James Carskadon

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, MSU President Mark E. Keenum, NSPARC Executive Director Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, and Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn pose for a picture following Reeves’ keynote speech at the inaugural ‘Mississippi – A Data Driven State’ summit, held at Mississippi State University. (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Leaders in state government, education and economic development showcased the importance of reliable data during the inaugural ‘Mississippi – A Data Driven State’ summit, held Friday [Sept. 23] at Mississippi State University.

“It is imperative that we continue to get the best data possible” Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said during the summit’s keynote address at The Mill at MSU. “We can only make the best decisions possible to make Mississippi a better place if we are getting the best information.”

The summit, hosted by Mississippi State’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, featured sessions on the value of data in education, workforce training, economic development and legislative policy decisions. The summit’s goal is educating stakeholders and decision makers about different data sources available in the state.

Many summit speakers highlighted the ways Mississippi is ahead of the curve in data analytics. In particular, multiple elected officials touted the way the State Longitudinal Data System, a comprehensive statewide data system operated by NSPARC, has assisted with industry recruitment and informing policy decisions.

Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn Boyce said the state’s data initiatives, coupled with advances in technology, have allowed data to become more actionable and show a more complete picture.

“We’ve been using (data) forever, but now we’re bringing it into focus,” Boyce said.

In his introduction of Reeves, MSU President Mark E. Keenum highlighted ways data produced by NSPARC can enhance workforce development. He also noted that Mississippi’s supercomputing power and data processing ability puts the state at an advantage when it comes to solving some of the world’s biggest problems, such as figuring out how to feed a growing global population.

“Feeding 3 billion new people at our global dinner table over a span of just over three decades may be one of our most daunting challenges,” Keenum said. “How we’re able to do that going forward will be a function of the information and knowledge that we can harness and bring together through technology, data and things we are doing right here at Mississippi State University. Mississippi will be part of helping to address critical challenges for the future.”

Other summit speakers included Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and four other state legislators that hold leadership positions on key House and Senate committees, as well as state leaders from all levels of education and industry. Mark Henry, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, served as summit host.

“MSU and Mississippi should be proud, because we have the best data in the country right here,” Gunn said.

NSPARC Executive Director Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi said he was proud of the role NSPARC has played in making state government more efficient and providing information to a wide variety of stakeholders.

“We convert (data) into actionable intelligence and it can be a service, it can be a new technology, it can be anything to help state government operate in a more efficient way,” Parisi said. “In the last 15 years, we’ve been able to do something no other state has been able to do. We have reduced the cost of government by making data part of the business operation. NSAPRC brings that kind of capability and research that can change the way we do business as a state.”

NSPARC is an interdisciplinary research center at MSU that uses smart data, analytical techniques and high technology to create innovative solutions based on academic research from many fields. For more, see

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at