Kundra talks Data.gov

Government data prepared for public reuse should be offered in multiple-formats, be machine-readable and adhere as closely as possible to lightweight standards, advised federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, speaking at the 2009 Government Web Managers conference held this week in Washington.

In March, when Kundra assumed the role of federal CIO, he promised that the federal government would set up a new repository, called Data.Gov, that would be populated with links and sources of data from federal agencies, which could be reused by citizens and organizations for their own Web applications.

In his talk at the Web managers conference, he revealed a few more details about what data.gov doing to prepare data for this reuse. He wants the site to follow some common guiding principles. Such guidelines would include "that data is available in multiple formats so that we can adopt multiple standards around making information available, and that [the data] available is machine-readable, so computing power can be used to slice and dice that information."

Kundra said that one of the pressing problems that needs to be addressed across the government is consistent user experience. Because federal agencies have more than 24,000 Web sites, "It is very difficult to have a common experience for the public when moving from one agency to another [Web site]," he said. "That is a challenge. That is something we should look at."

During the question-and-answer period, an audience member brought up the growing divide between agency Web site managers and IT administrators. Web managers would like to try new social networking and data sharing technologies, though are thwarted by IT managers, who express concerns over security and resource utilization issues.

Kundra recommended that a manager make a business case for using the new technology. If you make a business case, the CIO can't stand in your way, he said. He also said that while the CIO Council is looking at the idea of drafting some guidelines that could apply across all U.S. agencies in regards to use of social networking and data sharing tools, such guidelines will take time to put in place.

"It will be awhile. It really is up to the agencies," to establish their own usage polices, he said.

Kundra also advised Web managers to start taking a closer look at cell phones as a possible means for getting government information to the people. He expects the use of cell phones as a data communication tool to grow dramatically in the upcoming years.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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Reader Comments

Fri, May 1, 2009

Someone needs to lead this effort to encourage new ideas and just not say present a case. Technicians are not good writers regarding policy as you state. The CIO and possibly Mr. Kundra's staff (needs to have an adequate staff developed from the reports I see)are the people to help develop and decide if the changes would be worthwhile and get them implemented. Mr. Kundra is right in that standard designs are needed across the Federal enterprise. Why the CIO who needs to be open to these ideas and the WEB people are not connected at the hip is not a good sign. The CIO and Mr. Kundra are the people in charge and need to be the leaders.

Thu, Apr 30, 2009 George A Omaha

The concern regarding CIOs blocking innovation in federal IT is valid and not so easily dismissed as Mr. Kundra does. Maybe at some Everest-high level as the CIO Council there is some discussion about allowing innovative new technologies, but the people who have the knowledge, talent and foresight to want to use these technologies are being blocked by the local level CIO/ISO/IT cabal that is generally populated by non-IT career folks who know how to follow a policy, but not how to create a new one. The whole CIO/ISO human resource structure needs to be rethought to bring in the talent necessary to move IT innovation forward safely, securely and smartly but as swiftly as the private sector moves.

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