Data and simplicity can build the government platform

Aneesh Chopra and Tim O'Reilly on government as a platform, open data and more.

Tim O’Reilly and Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer, had a wide-ranging discussion at this week’s Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington D.C. As a relative novice in government matters, I was fortunate to be a fly on the wall during their chat. My understanding of the issues and opportunities at play increased exponentially during their 15-minute conversation. It was the highlight of the Expo for me.

The real head-turner was this: turning government into a platform is not as complicated or far off as I previously believed.

Other insights from the Chopra-O’Reilly discussion included:

  • For government to successfully work as a platform — an important aspect of Gov 2.0 — there needs to be an open exchange of information between government agencies and the public. Data is the catalyst. Make it available and watch as developers transform it into novel solutions that meet the public’s most pressing needs.
  • “Government” is not always synonymous with “complexity.” While discussing energy policy, Chopra noted that the most common energy feedback mechanism is the monthly utility bill. “That’s the snapshot in the rearview mirror about what we needed to do in our household,” he said. But what if consumers could tap an active data stream and adapt on the fly? That’s easier than you’d expect because many meters already “chirp” data to utility companies. Simple new programs will capture those data chirps and put them into open platforms.
  • The privacy debate is actually an “informed consent debate,” O’Reilly said. This dovetails with his recent post, “My contrarian stance on Facebook and privacy.”
  • Eighteen months in, Chopra is most proud of the energy and transparency generated by the Open Government Directive (pdf).
  • What keeps Chopra up at night? “The cybsersecurity threat is real,” he said.

The Gov 2.0 Expo site has an extensive collection of news and updates, and you can find many more Gov 2.0 videos here.

  • Keith Moore

    It is awesome and almost frightful to know how much power we possess, now that information is being made available to mankind through an open government. The problems of public distrust makes this process of delivering data information to the public and getting the public to engage because they now understand what to do with this newly made available information.

    This is where our job begins at Open Government Tv, (to engage and educate to empower), and with the principles of collaboration being placed in our laps as a principle of OGD,to advance information to the public is nothing less than energizing.

    Mac, like most people at the O’reily organization, I did not have quality time to meet and spend conversational time during the conference, but certainly looking to the next opportunity, and in the meantime please stay connected.

    With nuclear technology emerging, and the Yucca Mountain debate before us, we look forward to having continuing energy discussions at Open Government.

    Power- ultimately and hopefully to the people. (like never before)

  • Brand Niemann

    I heartily agree that “Data and simplicity can build the government platform” – please see

  • Platform Jumper

    Government as an (oil) platform. FAIL.

  • Peter Bachman

    From an architectural perspective there’s a lot to like and dislike in the 2.0 approach. In the words of the Who, some of it is “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” within the hype-cycle. Having open source concepts, priceless.

    Questions about what we have learned, or failed to learn are in order, and what can be applied to get positive change, and a

      reduction in costs by meaningful use of HIT

    , instead of reinforcing current information silos.

    NHIN missed something profound right at the get go in understanding Patient Identity, and set off on a tack which may eventually maintain the status quo, rather than transform it, by a gateway translation approach between large proprietary systems, that keeps those systems in situ.

    Internet 1.0 was having the Internet, but internally, everything was running NetBios, or DecNet, SNA, etc. unless one was running Unix.

    IP was not over everything, for somewhat legitimate reasons, especially security.

    Truly transforming approaches (like the Internet) rewrote the rules to bring in huge productivity gains by creating new value chains, some of which were false, and fell out in the dot-com crash, since they were vapor.

    There would be no current Internet without doing the work first of creating TCP-IP and the difficult abstractions of what, why and how the layers communicate with each other.

    Every protocol decision has a great deal of logic of why behind it, and naming and addressing, and how that is abstracted correctly is one of the most difficult problem frames in protocol design. Look how NHIN broadcasts messages to find out someone’s records on different systems. It’s a MOM system.

    We can’t solve the health privacy, and security problem spaces until we get patient identity management right, by allowing patients to network their digital identities between different systems.

    Patient Identifiers have been seen by the experts group as the shortest path towards an interoperable national platform, created by the citizens themselves, and currently forbidden by Congress for the government to create, hence the MOM workaround by NHIN.

  • Vishnu @ beautiful minds

    Came in from nvd.nist archive. After going thru all these A quote from a movie(Spiderman) came in to my mind.. “with great power…”.

    I think proper ware housing, seggragating and making the right data available to public is still an herculean task and there is a heavy need for localised information out from the government.

    Beautiful minds – Technical/ Career Blog