Kundra to agencies: Get ready for data deluge

Emerging technologies will create huge amounts of unstructured data

Agencies need to prepare for an explosion of new data over the next five years that will be created partly because of emerging Web 2.0 technologies, Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, told a conference in Washington..

"This notion of thinking about data in a structured, relational database is dead," Kundra said July 21 at the Open Government and Innovations Conference. "Some of the most valuable information is going to live in video, blogs and audio, and it is going to be unstructured inherently."

Electronic health records, for example, will transform the way people get health care and will generate new and varying pieces of data, Kundra said. "If you look at an iPhone and the ability to go out there and take a picture or video that is GPS coded, and upload it in real time has fundamentally changed the notion of the relationship between technology and us," he said.

Consumers adopting Web 2.0 technology will create great pressure on government agencies to provide services in terms the public is used to, Kundra said.

"Why is it that you can go online and compare hundreds and hundreds of flights, and make a booking within minutes, yet when you are looking for government services like student aid, it is more complicated than the IRS 1040 form?" Kundra said.

Federal policies and statutes, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act or the federal Internet cookies policy, must be re-evaluated to make it possible for agencies to fully embrace Web 2.0 technology, Kundra said.

The Paperwork Reduction Act was created in part to keep government from becoming too intrusive in people's lives. However, the law makes it difficult for agencies to use social media to solicit ideas and comments from the public, Kundra said.

"Technologies that exist today didn't exist at the time these statutes were being put in place," he said. "We actually just requested comments through the Federal Register and the Open Government blog on the cookies policy, for example."

Federal Computer Week's owner, the 1105 Government Information Group, sponsors the conference.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jul 24, 2009

Kundra's comments show that he still thinks at the scale of the "small" city of Washington DC (his last job) and he has not "grown up" to the scale of the large enterprise United States. A good portion of technology is there and available, but the Federal Government still isn't positioned to exploit it. The biggest problem is the acquisition process is still fundamentally broken especially where coherent information sharing and integration is so critical.

Thu, Jul 23, 2009 Michael D. Long Knoxville, TN

Each communication from this gentleman reveals even more about his lack of qualifications to fill the post he has been appointed to. It is quite clear that he does not understand that the "I" in "CIO" stands for information. A disorganized, free-form collection of data is not information. There is a cost associated with collecting and maintaining data, and it is apparent that Mr. Kundra lacks the management experience to understand the cost implications of his desires to put the government on the cutting edge of "Web 2.0 technologies." Most of the applications cited as Web 2.0 do not even meet the criteria for being given such a designation. Even some that do are nothing more than "the emporer's new clothes" - in that they are just a variation on an older application that performed much of the same functionality. Blogs are a key example. Can you say diary, journal, or perhaps a more functional technical variant known as a newsgroup? I wonder how many young techies even know about NNTP news servers...

Thu, Jul 23, 2009

I agree that there is use in social networking for commnet and feedback but to say structured data in relational databases are dead is beyond ridiculous and shows little knowledge of how service oriented architecture is built. Years of experience have shown that governance of information exchange is the bear that we wrestle with, not the technology. Open Source and XML based web services have propelled us forward and enabled limitless oportunities for e-government - but we cant exchange data and begin to be intgeroperable without structure and governance. I sincerely hope this new adminsitration doesnt throw the baby out with the bath water.

Thu, Jul 23, 2009 Steve O'Hearn McLean, VA

And another thing ... as nice as the Web 2.0 interfaces can be ... aren't most Web 2.0 apps built on relational database platforms anyway? Is this sort of like saying "we don't need farms any more because now we have these grocery stores" ... -- ? Well ... yeah ... but ... ?

Thu, Jul 23, 2009 Steve O'Hearn McLean, VA

Kundra's comment that "the structured, relational database is dead" is getting carried away. His point about Web 2.0 is right on target - it has a lot to offer. But if he thinks that federal budget numbers can be aggregated with Google searches, or census statistics and social security inquiries can be protected in Drupal, or that personnel security can be managed and identify protection can be guaranteed - under threat of legal action and terrorist attacks if it fails - with foreign owned-and-operated social networking sites, or that business rules of earned value management can be enforced with Wordpress blogs - well, his technical knowledge is somewhat deficient. There's some "gold in them thar hills", to be true. But it isn't Nirvana. It's just some gold.

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