In an economy where success depends greatly on firms' and towns' ability to leverage data — which has become easier and cheaper to collect and disseminate thanks to recent technological advancements — New Jersey isn't keeping up with about half of the country, according to a new report from the Center for Data Innovation.

New Jersey ranks 23rd out of 50 in the think tank's list of the best states for data innovation.

The Garden State receives a score of 41.7 out of a possible 100, compared to country-leading Massachusetts with a score of 63. Mississippi comes in last place with a score of 18.9.

The report looked at 25 indicators across three broader categories:

  • The extent to which key datasets are available, including data about health care and energy
  • The availability of key digital infrastructure, such as smart meters and electronic health records
  • Human and business resources, such as the number of open-data companies and the size of the data professional community

New Jersey ranked dead last for the percentage of doctors (62 percent) and hospitals (75 percent) using electronic health records.

"Doctors that are using these electronic health records can reduce costs for the patient and they can improve the patient outcome," CDI Director Daniel Castro told the Townsquare News Network.

Only three states ranked worse than New Jersey for the percentage of smart energy meters, which feature two-way communication technology that provides both providers and customers with pertinent data about prices, usage and inefficiencies. According to the report, less than 1 percent of New Jersey's electricity meters were "smart" in 2015, compared to 90.9 percent in Maine.

While the Garden State ranked second nationwide in advanced-placement statistics and computer-science testing among high-schoolers, it also ranked 34th for its share of college degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.

"You have a really strong pipeline of high school students, but for some reason, there's a gap there," Castro said of New Jersey.

The state ranked among the top 10 states in a number of indicators, including the publishing of legislative data in open formats, the percentage of software service jobs as a share of total employment, and the percentage of data-science job listings as a share of total listings.

Castro said the report is meant for policymakers to see where their states are lagging and, in turn, make the necessary changes to remain competitive in the data economy.

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