PITAC wins a reprieve

"Digital Libraries: Universal Access to Human Knowledge"

The White House's top advisory panel on information technology will live on, at least briefly.

The President's Information Technology Advisory Committee was to be disbanded midnight Feb. 11, but President Bush signed an executive order extending the panel's life until June 1.

PITAC, a group of 30 IT experts from industry and academia, was formed in February 1997 under an executive order signed by President Clinton. The committee was supposed to exist for four years.

The committee advised Clinton on many IT matters. It advocated the development of open-source software and centralized management of IT within the federal government.

At the committee's quarterly meeting this month, co-chairmen Irving Wladawsky-Berger and Raj Reddy said they want PITAC to continue under the Bush administration. The short extension will allow the new administration to take a look at the committee and determine how it can assist in federal IT policy planning, Reddy said.

"They are trying to figure out what they want to do in the information technology area, but at the same time they do not want to drop something because of inattention," he said. "If they simply extend [the committee's life] for three years without looking at it, then that would show that they didn't really understand it."

Earlier this month, the committee released reports recommending the expanded use of IT in the health care and education systems, and in the development of digital libraries that allow access to vast collections of knowledge worldwide.

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