VanRoekel touts digital strategy's first-year progress

Federal CIO showcases the progress the government made in the strategy's first year, looks to year two.

Steve VanRoekel 102012

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel detailed the progress that the government has made in the first year of the Digital Government Strategy. (FCW photo)

One year ago, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and federal CTO Todd Park announced the government's digital strategy. On May 23, the pair put out a new blog post announcing the completion of the latest round of deliverables, including new mobile security guidelines, the launch of an online catalog with nearly 300 APIs, and a digital analytics program that parses government website traffic with an eye to improving performance and delivering the most sought-after information.

A governmentwide policy now looks at how agencies "are tracking from a customer service standpoint, the aspect of usability of the federal web," VanRoekel said in a May 23 conference call with reporters. Metrics are being used to make customer service decisions and investment decisions. He cited the launch of an Education Department app that collapses student aid information from 14 separate websites into a unified resource. "It's exciting to see what analytics can tell us to do," VanRoekel said.

Agencies are now able to track the path users take across federal sites, how they leave and arrive, how they search and for what, and what their clicks suggest about the information they are seeking. The analytics do not include any information that identifies a particular user or computer, VanRoekel said, stressing that the program "allows us to have a view while respecting the security and privacy of people accessing it."

The new API catalog, meanwhile, documents the efforts of each agency to release at least two "major customer-facing systems" through web APIs -- another Digital Government Strategy goal. VanRoekel reported that nearly every agency has created a special page for developers to access APIs, which are also available through a central repository. He said that the two-API requirement was really the "crawl" stage of a "crawl-walk-run" learning curve, and that the amount of data to be made available in machine-readable format is going to dramatically increase over the second year of the digital strategy.

Congress is making a bid of its own to free up government data. The DATA Act, introduced earlier this week in the House and the Senate, is designed to improve the quality and reliability of federal spending data reported to the USASpending.gov website. VanRoekel would not address the specifics of the legislation, although the administration had opposed a slightly different measure introduced in the last Congress.

He did point out that the administration planned to move responsibility for the USASpending.gov site to the Treasury. And he added that after Obama's executive order on open data went out on May 9, a team from Treasury contacted the CIO's office, to talk about how to "dovetail open data in the next generation of financial systems."

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