Open Government conference roundup

Web 2.0 proves to be focal point

The Open Government and Innovations Conference, held in Washington, D.C., last week, brought together more than 600 people from government, industry and public advocacy groups to discuss social media, acquisition reform and health care information technology. Among the speakers were Vivek Kundra, the federal government's chief information officer, and Aneesh Chopra, the White House chief technology officer. 

The conference was sponsored by the 1105 Government Information Group, parent company of Federal Computer Week. Some highlights:

Web 2.0 to create data deluge

Kundra, speaking in a town-hall style meeting, said agencies need to prepare over the next five years for an explosion of new data that will be created partly because of emerging Web 2.0 technologies, Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer.

"This notion of thinking about data in a structured, relational database is dead," Kundra said. "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, [it] has fundamentally changed the notion of the relationship between technology and us," he said.

DOD to remake Web site with Web 2.0

The Defense Department will launch a new homepage Aug. 15 that incorporates Web 2.0 technologies as part of a militarywide and governmentwide effort to use new media capabilities.

The Web new site, at, will be a complete overhaul of the site that now exists, said Les Benito, public Web director at DOD’s Defense Media Activity office. The site will include new modes of user participation, and interactivity will be a driving factor in the site’s shaping, he said.

Users will be able to post questions for high-ranking military officers or the defense secretary, give their own feedback about DOD services and take advantage of other similar interactive features, he said.

“We’ll be basing a lot on things like user feedback and search results,” Benito said. “It’s like a portal to the Defense Department – how to do business with us, how to get involved. Some of it will be similar to Google monitoring,” a feature that tracks Internet traffic.

Benito hopes the new features will tap into the social media’s explosive popularity and help capture the coveted demographic of people ages 18 to 24 years that has eluded DefenseLink, DOD’s current departmentwide homepage.

Public has edge over feds on technology adoption

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, Chopra said in a conference keynote.

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

The Open Government Initiative started by President Barack Obama will be an important way to ensure that 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 another good way to foster innovation and open government in the United States, he 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, a non-profit advocacy group in Washington.

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 mindset."


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