California opens Innovation Lab

California opens Innovation Lab

California has opened an Innovation Lab to support its efforts to increase citizen engagement, build public-facing applications and foster internal government innovation.

The Innovation Lab is the first project out of the gate for the newly established Office of Digital Innovation and Technology Engagement, which was created to leverage the state’s current investments in data; promote information sharing and data-driven decision making; support open source technologies; and develop agile, cost-effective solutions for the state. The new office will be headed by Scott Gregory, California’s state geographic information officer.

The California Innovation Lab is an open source “tech habitat” for development, housed in CalCloud, that agencies can use to build, test and deploy open source projects in the state’s data center.

The lab, still in its very early stages, is similar to development sandboxes adopted by other agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s virtual software lab for testing web prototypes.

“It’s definitely following that very same model,” Gregory said. "It will be managed the same way."

Rather than relying on vendors and closed-sourced systems, developers can use open source code and data to build technology solutions together in a secure, authenticated environment. CalCloud is built to Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program standards, and already  provides infrastructure as a service, vendor-hosted subscription services, assessment and migration services and email services.

The Innovation Lab’s first project is the Green Buyer app, which grew out of a two-day sustainability-focused Green Gov Challenge hosted by the California Department of General Services and the Government Operations Agency.

The goal was to use the state’s open data to create an app that would enable both government and the public to understand the quantity of sustainable products that departments purchase every year. “In less than 48 hours [citizen developers] delivered 14 different applications, specifically, open source technology,” Gregory said, describing those efforts as seeds for production-ready applications.

Gregory said he is confident these initiatives will help to increase the availability of open and actionable data in California. As the Innovation Lab continues to leverage open data, he predicted, it will be the fuel to build citizen-facing applications.

In support of the Innovation Lab, the California Department of Technology will develop policy and usage standards governing the use of open source technology within CalCloud that still support collaboration among the state, cities, counties and the open source community.

We’re at the very early stages of development,” Gregory said. “We’re building this up, preparing it and getting it ready … to start to collaborate and work within government to make things better.”

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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