Another type of infrastructure investment — in better data — is needed if the United States is going to develop more effective policies to spur competitiveness and growth, according to a report released today by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “Notwithstanding the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year and the thousands of economists working for the federal government, the exact nature of the challenges to U.S. capabilities with regard to the competitiveness of America’s traded sectors is only weakly understood,” writes Robert Atkinson, founder and president of ITIF. “At least since after the Great Depression, the federal government has never felt the need to develop strategic economic intelligence in order to fully understand the competitive position of its traded sectors or to help support overall economic productivity. Rather, most of the focus goes to understanding the ups and downs of the business cycle.” As the report notes, many new types of data are needed to better understand the workings of the U.S. economy — much of it at the enterprise and establishment level — in measures that reflect new innovations such as cloud computing, robotics and artificial intelligence. Among the recommendations, the most important issue is funding, according to the report. “Over the years, Congress has not kept funding in line with the growth in GDP, much less inflation. Congress should at least double funding devoted to economic statistics,” the report states.