Federal CTO Chopra: Open government initiative will keep government on pace with innovation

Federal agencies need to follow the lead of the public in using technology to collaborate and communicate, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra says.

People who use the Internet to communicate, collaborate and solve problems are far ahead of federal agencies in using emerging technologies and Web 2.0 tools, Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said today at the Open Government and Innovations Conference in Washington.

"Our public policy has failed to keep up with what we're seeing all around us," Chopra said.

The open-government initiative started by President Barack Obama will be an important way to ensure agencies do not fall behind the rest of the world in the way technology is implemented and used, he said.

A competition named Apps for America is example of a good way to foster innovation and open government in the United States, Chopra said. The goal of the competition is to design applications that share government information in creative and interesting ways. The competition is sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation.

Chopra highlighted one application that identifies the least delayed airline flight between two cities. Another concentration game uses FBI most wanted photos. "It is about taking our information and moving it out so you can engage with the American public," he said.

Chopra said part of his role as federal CTO is to encourage the kind of innovation coming out of the Apps for America competition.

"But I am equally committed to holding myself accountable, and in turn asking you to hold me accountable, for us to deliver on promises, so that we show progress," Chopra said. "Not all these technology initiatives require new laws or budgets; this is just about mind-set."

The Federal Information Technology Dashboard, which lets the public easily view the details about the progress of government IT projects, will be an important way to keep agencies accountable, said David Wennergren, the Defense Department's deputy chief information officer, who also spoke at the conference.

Wennergren compared the IT Dashboard to meetings held in the late 1990s about agencies' progress in preparing for the year 2000. Work was completed on time in part because officials did not want to attend those meetings and admit projects were behind schedule, he said.

Government Computer News' parent company, the 1105 Government Information Group, sponsors the conference.

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