Data.gov goes global

Monday - 12/12/2011, 8:45am EST

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel

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By Michael O'Connell
@moconnellWFED
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

Data.gov has become a signature of the Obama administration's open government effort. Now the United States has spearheaded a worldwide transparency drive called the Open Government Partnership.

India is a leading partner in the effort to take Data.gov globally. Both the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed open government with Indian officials last summer.

"We had some developers from India come in the last week of August and stay with us ... to discuss the possibility of jointly developing a solution that we open source and put out for people to use around the world to build their own Data.gov," said Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris.

Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel (CIO.gov)

According to VanRoekel, the United States released a data management tool, which is the first release associated with this partnership. The tool allows governments to do all of the workflow associated with checking data. The next step will be for the Indian government to build the website that will visually present that data.

"The Indian government has been doing a really great job of elements of this," VanRoekel said. "They have an effort that they put forward to do data, to fight corruption, to do other things, and we saw them as a really good partner to go and jointly take this on."

Although the U.S. government coded the data management tool, it did so using open source and under the umbrella of its international partnership. This means that the United States will not own the end product; the foreign partner that develops it will.

"The cross-benefit of this effort is that you want these things to be sort of 'by-the-people/for-the-people' as well as have the government lay down the base foundation," VanRoekel said. "We're really encouraged by the ability to publish this first phase, get it out into the hands of others, to make improvements, give us feedback and do other things."

To facilitate the process, the Open Government Platform information was posted on the github social coding website for people to download.

Continuing the partnership

Now that the United States kicked off its partnership by presenting a way for governments to upload and manage the data in the system, it's up to India to take the next step.

In the next six months, the Indian government will drop a set of code that provides the presentation aspect of the platform, with the final, end-to-end product being delivered later in 2012.

"Data is an amazing tool to shine light on many aspects of both government and other things," VanRoekel said. "Exposing data, we found in the U.S., can give you insights, can make you smarter about decisions, can fight corruption around the world and other things."

Publishing data online also unlocks the value of government. "Having application developers utilize that data to build solutions for citizens is a very, very powerful mechanism," he said

VanRoekel pointed to commuters in Washington, D.C., being able to download information about Metro schedules in real time as an example of how accessing government data quickly can improve one's life.

"There's an amazing realm of possibilities we could drive worldwide if we start opening up this data in a way that's accessible in these much broader senses," he said.

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