President Obama has a “high geek quotient” according to his senior technology advisor, Todd Park. Park and U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel announced five major federal initiatives at TechCrunch Disrupt today, along with a call to entrepreneurs to join in a new gold rush of data that will be released in the coming months. Like how the GPS industry helped pave the way for iPhone apps, Park and VanRoekel hope to catalyze new industries in energy, education, security, and the nonprofit sector with the new open data guidelines. Additionally, they’re opening up an application process for an executive fellows program (apply here; we’ll have a post soon with more details).
The five major initiatives are as follows:
1. Expand the one-click download program of “Blue Button” to energy, education, security, and the nonprofit sector. Blue Button was an early open data initiative from Park’s previous job at HHS to allow federal medical recipients (Department of Defense, Veterans, and Medicare) to access their health information in an easy, one-click process for use with all of their doctors. A relevant recent extension of Blue Button for energy, “Green Button,” is already in use by iPhone app makers to give homeowners feedback on their energy use. Additional energy info will be coming soon in the hopes that savvy entrepreneurs can make profitable, socially-beneficial use of the new data.
2. Expand Blue Button itself to private sector insurance companies. Right now, only federal beneficiaries have access to the data, yet many Americans would also like an easy way to track their medical history and share relevant results between doctors.
3. A PayPal for foreign aid, the “20% Campaign.” The federal government has a nasty habit of losing crates of cash and foreign aid while paying security forces and contract workers in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Park and VanRoekel hope the new system can better track the money trail, and therefore reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. One study suggests that India could save billions with electronic transfers, and the savings could be just as significant for the U.S.
4. A small-business friendly process for securing government contracts, named RFP-EZ. Don’t have a DC-bureau or a cushy relationship with a senator? This program aims to give the small guy a shot at big contracts. Park argued in his talk that the government sometimes prefers savvy startups in Silicon Valley, who can save the government a lot more than the typical contractor.
5. MyGov, a user-friendly website to find government services. Currently, government services are organized by government need, not citizen, making many services difficult to find.
These initiatives will roll out over the comings months and we’ll update our audience with relevant details.