Data.gov moving into implementation stage

Tuesday - 10/26/2010, 7:15am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller with Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Agencies have uploaded more than 300,000 datasets to Data.gov, of which more than 200,000 are considered high-value.

But agencies are struggling with prioritizing which ones to send in next.

The General Services Administration is offering some help. Next month, GSA is hosting a Data.gov implementation conference in Washington where it is bringing in experts from around the country and from around the world.

"It's bringing together best practices from all over the world around how we can move the data.gov platform forward and the transparency agenda," said Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer at the 2010 Executive Leadership Conference sponsored by IAC and ACT. "It's bringing in people from the U.K., Australia and Canada, all over the world. It's very much focused on implementation not just policy."

Kundra said there is a growing knowledge of and use of data sets coming from agencies by third party developers, including car seat safety ratings or Medicare-Medicaid data sets around hospital results. According to Data.gov metrics, more than 146,000 visitors have come to the site each of the last three months. Additionally, in September citizens downloaded more than 143,000 data sets, the most in the last 12 months, and more than double the number in July and August.

And as the more obvious data sets are put up on the portal, agencies have to decide which ones come next.

"The challenge moving forward is going to be for us to think about and parse through how do you differentiate between data sets that will actually drive economic value and innovations versus accountability versus data sets that will allow break throughs to happen?" Kundra said. "What you are seeing is each agency has a diverse set of constituencies and mission so a valuable data set for someone in the southwest may be data sets around what's going on around land and reclamation, and where you are seeing infrastructure built out that will create value economically to them, versus a data set in Washington D.C. or New York City is going to be a very different value data set."

Kundra said agencies are facing requests from different constituency groups with different values. This demand side is healthy and important, but it also important for agencies to focus on their core mission.

"How do we make sure that we don't asymmetrically tilt one way or another? We could turn Data.gov platform into nothing but an accountability platform, but that wouldn't add as much value," he said. "Or we could turn that into a pure mission platform, but that wouldn't add as much value either. We have to find a balance and I don't think there is a necessary prescriptive guidance. I think this will be a dialogue with agencies and you will have to bring in constituencies."

Kundra said agencies need to begin having these conversations sooner than later as more and more third party developers are using the data to create mobile applications.

OMB and GSA led an effort earlier this year to seed a few high-profile apps as incubators and hopes that citizens will build on them and create new ones.

"On Data.gov, we've already seen over 200 apps that have been created," Kundra said. "And part of what we want to be able to do as a strategy is I want to make sure the government is not developing all the apps. What you will begin to see now is the emergence of third party apps."

One example of this is the Veterans Affairs Department's Blue Button that lets veterans download their personal health data and share it with their primary care providers.

Kundra said there is an emergence of a new industry where companies are creating Blue Button readers, or others thinking about how to incorporate it into their systems.

"That is where this whole ecosystem around a platform that allows third parties to create most of that value is where we are heading," he said. "What I think will be exciting is when we begin launching services around the new Consumer Protection Financial Agency."

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