Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Celebrating the Second Annual National Day of Civic Hacking

    Next month, for the second year in a row, civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs around the world will gather together for the National Day of Civic Hacking. By combining their expertise with new technologies and publicly released data, participants hope to build tools that help others in their own neighborhoods and across the globe.

    We’re excited to support this event which will take place on May 31 – June 1, 2014.

    The National Day of Civic Hacking is an opportunity for software developers, technologists, and entrepreneurs to collaborate and create innovative solutions—using publicly-released data, code, and technologies—to tackle pressing challenges and improve our communities and the governments that serve them.

    Last year more than 11,000 innovators from the private-sector, non-profits, and Federal, State and local governments worked together to hack on projects—95 civic hacking events took place in 83 cities including Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Louisville, New Orleans, San Francisco, and even here at the White House. Several of these projects were recognized by the White House at a Champions of Change for Civic Hacking event, including:

    • Technology-Enabled Volunteers Curbing Hunger and Food Waste: In Austin, Texas, the founder of Keep Austin Fed worked with a team developers at a National Day of Civic Hacking event to create a website and electronic volunteer management system that allows its program to distribute food in Austin to those in need.
    • Crowd-Powered Conflict Mediation: In New Orleans, Louisiana, “Stop Beef” was built as a conflict-resolution app to connect mediators to resolve street conflicts without violence, ultimately seeking to reduce the number of murders in the city. 
    •  Search and Rescue App for Disaster Relief: In Tulsa, Oklahoma the Open Search and Rescue web app was developed by civic hackers to help improve the effectiveness of urban search and rescue operations through an online search area tracker and task force notification system to prevent duplication of efforts and help first responders identify areas of most need in the wake of a disaster. 

    As President Obama has said, “In this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better… We all have a stake in government success—because the government is us."

    The Federal Government also has some great resources that participants in the National Civic Day of Hacking can use, including:

    • Data.gov, the central site to find U.S. government data, which has thousands of data sets across topics such as health, energy, education, public safety, and more.
    • Challenge.gov, the central site to find important government challenges for public collaboration.

    We encourage you to join the movement and participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking. If you’re a local civic innovator, rally your community group to host a hackathon. The White House will be hosting our own hackathon around the We the People petitions API later this year.

    If you’re a policymaker, identify which goals could be addressed with open data and technology tools. If you’re a local government official, don’t miss out on this opportunity to make a positive impact on your town or city.

    You can learn more about the National Day of Civic Hacking at: http://www.hackforchange.org/.

    Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Mobile and Data Innovation

  • Request for Information: Exploring the Use of APIs to Improve Access to Education Resources

    Ed. Note: This article is posted in full on the U.S. Department of Education website and is authored by Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Education David Soo.
     
    Despite the growing amount of information about higher education, many students and families still need access to clear, helpful resources to make informed decisions about going to – and paying for – college.  President Obama has called for innovation in college access, including by making sure all students have easy-to-understand information.
     
    Now, the U.S. Department of Education needs your input on specific ways that we can increase innovation, transparency, and access to data.  In particular, we are interested in how APIs (application programming interfaces) could make our data and processes more open and efficient.
     

  • Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators: President Obama Honors the Nation's Cutting-Edge Scientists and Engineers

    A group of leading researchers were honored yesterday at the White House as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

    After receiving their awards in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture with agency officials, friends, and relatives—a ceremony keynoted by OSTP Director John Holdren—the group of 102 ambitious scientists and engineers were greeted at the White House by President Obama who thanked them for their outstanding achievements.

    PECASE April 14, 2014

    President Barack Obama talks with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo)

    The PECASE recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Intelligence Community, which join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

  • Statement by John P. Holdren on the IPCC's Working Group Report on Climate-Change Mitigation

    Statement by Assistant to the President for Science & Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Dr. John P. Holdren on the Release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III Report on climate-change mitigation:

    “The facts are clear—the more we and other countries do to curb climate change and prepare for the climate-change impacts that can no longer be avoided, the less suffering will be inflicted on our communities and on our children and grandchildren. 

    The IPCC's new report highlights in stark reality the magnitude and urgency of the climate challenge. It shows, even more compellingly than previous studies, that the longer society waits to implement strong measures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, the more costly and difficult it will become to limit climate change to less than catastrophic levels.

    The Obama Administration is committed to leading efforts to address this global challenge, both by example and by persuasion. And through the concrete steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, real progress is already being made.

    In the last year alone, the Administration has begun the development of new fuel-economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles; set the stage for limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fueled power plants; unveiled a national strategy for reducing methane emissions; finalized two sets of energy-efficiency standards; launched a Quadrennial Energy Review process to provide a comprehensive basis for national energy policy, starting with the challenges facing our aging energy infrastructure; and launched a Climate Data Initiative to help communities, businesses, and individuals increase their preparedness for and resilience against climate change.

    We are also intensifying our engagement with other countries around the world, in both bilateral and multilateral venues, in order to boost coordination and cooperation on emissions-reductions targets and the policies and technologies for achieving them. This latest IPCC report provides further impetus and guidance for these efforts.”

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  • The Impact of Open Data

    Freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource, serving as fuel for entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits. According to a recent report, open data can generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value in key sectors of the global economy, including education, health, transportation, and electricity.

    Recognizing this, over the past few years, the Administration’s Open Data Initiatives have helped unlock troves of valuable data— that taxpayers have already paid for—and is making these resources more open and accessible to innovators and the public.

    Today I participated on a panel hosted by the Center for Data Innovation to discuss the economic impact of open data. At the event we discussed an array of new and exciting actions being taken to help make data easier to find and use so that we can help realize its potential value, including:

    • The launch of Data.gov/Impact, which features examples of companies using open data in innovative ways, and insights about how they use open data in key sectors including education, transportation, energy, consumer finance, and consumer products;
    • The launch of the Open Data 500 study done by the Governance Lab (GovLab)—a research institution at New York University—of 500 companies that are using open government data to generate new businesses and develop new products and services The initiative is designed to identify, describe, and analyze companies that use open government data in order to study how these data can serve business needs more effectively.
    • The launch of a series of Open Data Roundtables with entrepreneurs and government agencies, convened by the GovLab, to help better connect business leaders who use open data, and who have ideas about ways the data could be more open and available, with government officials working to make the data easier to find and use in order to maximize its value to the public. The first roundtable will take place this spring and feature the U.S. Department of Commerce.
    • The U.S. Open Data Institute’s new open authentication system, which will make it easier for data producers to get “signatures” on information without locking them into PDFs – making that data more available for innovators to use once it’s released.
    • The U.S. Open Data Institute’s new initiative to create and implement open source software and standards for open government data related to hunting and fishing, aimed at modernizing and streamlining the $75 billion industry.

    As our discussion made clear, the impact of open data is enormous. Entrepreneurs and businesses are using open government data to make better products, more accurate maps, and data-driven recommendations for things like energy usage and health decisions, all while growing the economy. And, as we continue to make data resources easier to use and to share, more business and entrepreneurs can tap into data in innovative exciting ways that benefit Americans. Mobilizing stakeholders to understand how data is being used and how it can be made more accessible will help us realize the full potential of open data.

    Erie Meyer is Senior Advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy

     

  • U.S. Global Development Lab Launches to Develop and Scale Solutions to Global Challenges

    Imagine a world in which diagnostics for diseases that are prevalent in developing countries are available at pennies per use, renewable off-grid energy services are affordable for households earning less than $2/day, and every family has enough healthy food to eat.  USAID is helping to turn these ideas into realities by launching the U.S. Global Development Lab. The Lab is a critical part of delivering on the President’s commitment to game-changing innovation in the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development

    The Lab’s creation is part of a strategic decision to emphasize innovation as one of the critical tools needed to end extreme poverty and achieve broad-based economic growth in light of a number of converging trends: 

    • Recognition that quality of life and economic improvements in developing countries over the last few decades can be traced in large part to the use of scientific advances such as improved agricultural seeds and practices, oral rehydration therapy, vaccines, and the cell phone.
    • Emphasis on leveraging U.S. core competencies.  America is a global leader in innovation and invests $453 billion in public and private research and development annually.  It also has 17 of the top 20 research universities, and world-class innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA.
    • The information economy is changing the way innovation occurs and is increasingly enabling people in even the most remote parts of the world to use mobile communications and data to learn, co-create, and deploy solutions locally and globally.
    • The emergence of new pathways to scale innovations via for-profit or social business models that are made possible by a surge in private sector investment in developing countries.  These pathways are critical since they exceed the level and reach of official assistance by the U.S. Government.

    The U.S. Global Development Lab puts tools in place to create and scale solutions to global challenges in partnership with public and private innovators around the world, USAID Missions, and interagency colleagues.  The Lab has Centers that will focus on Data Analysis and Research (problem definition), Development Innovation (ideas), and Global Solutions (scale).  It will also have teams dedicated to private sector and Mission partnerships, and evaluation and impact. 

    The Lab brings together a number of existing programs from across the innovation pipeline: Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), the Higher Education Solutions Network, Grand Challenges for Development, Development Innovation Ventures, Mobile Solutions, and Global Development Alliances.