Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon May 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM EST
At the May 2012 launch of the President’s Digital Government Strategy, only 35% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone. Today, on the one year anniversary of the Strategy, that number is nearly 50%.
To keep pace with the rapid adoption of mobile devices and the breakneck speed of mobile innovation, President Obama charged agencies with releasing flagship mobile services and making data available in developer-friendly formats to accelerate the production of services and mobile applications.
Twelve months after the President’s call for change, there has been great progress bringing mobile government to citizens’ fingertips. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, agencies are announcing the release of hundreds of new mobile services, datasets, and APIs, providing unprecedented public access to government data.
Recreational boaters gearing up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes can use the MyNOAACharts App to identify their location on freely available nautical charts. Students and parents can use the StudentAid.gov App to access straightforward and easy-to-understand information about planning and paying for college. Family members visiting the Arlington National Cemetery can use the new ANC Explorer App to locate individual gravesites or other points of interest. And Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients or their representatives can use the SSI Mobile Wage Reporter App to report monthly wages to Social Security from the convenience of their smartphone.
Beyond this growing array of apps, major Federal websites, including www.medicare.gov, www.socialsecurity.gov, and www.faa.gov have been mobile-optimized. Citizens can now use their mobile devices to find or submit useful information from the road. They can report traveler complaints through TSA’s TRIP form, determine the cleanliness of nearby waterways with EPA’s How’s My Waterway site, or find the nearest Alternative Fuel Station using the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuel Stations Mobile Locator. The list of mobile services is growing every day.
- Posted byon May 16, 2013 at 8:46 AM EST
Technology evolves rapidly, and it can be challenging for policy and its implementation to evolve at the same pace. Last week, President Obama launched the Administration’s new Open Data Policy and Executive Order aimed at ensuring that data released by the government will be as accessible and useful as possible. To make sure this tech-focused policy can keep up with the speed of innovation, we created Project Open Data.
Project Open Data is an online, public repository intended to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy. We wanted to foster a culture change in government where we embrace collaboration and where anyone can help us make open data work better. The project is published on GitHub, an open source platform that allows communities of developers to collaboratively share and enhance code. The resources and plug-and-play tools in Project Open Data can help accelerate the adoption of open data practices. For example, one tool instantly converts spreadsheets and databases into APIs for easier consumption by developers. The idea is that anyone, from Federal agencies to state and local governments to private citizens, can freely use and adapt these open source tools—and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Within the first 24 hours after Project Open Data was published, more than two dozen contributions (or “pull requests” in GitHub speak) were submitted by the public. The submissions included everything from fixing broken links, to providing policy suggestions, to contributing new code and tools. One pull request even included new code that translates geographic data from locked formats into open data that is freely available for use by anyone.
These steps may seem small, but they represent a big shift. Behind these actions is recognition of the simple fact that, as a community, we can do more together than we can alone. Project Open Data leverages the ingenuity of innovators everywhere as partners to help the country realize the full benefit of open data.
- Posted byon May 15, 2013 at 3:26 PM EST
Winners of the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals Challenge. (Photo by the National Institutes of Health)
To encourage the broadest possible range of ideas and participants in this Initiative, the NEI held a prize competition to identify “Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation,” open to submissions from August through November 2012. The winners were invited to present their ideas in February at an NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting—a gathering of more than 200 researchers and experts working to develop a set of bold goals that will guide vision research priorities for the NEI and other organizations going forward.
NEI’s approach makes good sense. Well-designed incentive prizes can harness the diverse expertise and perspectives of people who are not typically involved in a particular field. That’s why, with more than 250 prizes offered by more than 50 Federal agencies so far on Challenge.gov, incentive prizes are now a standard tool in every Federal agency’s toolbox to spur innovation and solve tough problems.
In addition, Grand Challenges like the audacious goals NEI plans to set forth are important elements of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. In fact, just last month, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
Below, Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the NEI at the National Institutes of Health, answers questions about the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative.
- Posted byon May 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM EST
America’s small information technology firms are some of the most innovative in the world. They are nimble, creative and can get the job done. And thanks to a new online government platform, it is getting easier for them to address some of the Federal Government’s most pressing IT needs. It’s a win-win: Small technology companies get easier access to the Federal Government’s nearly $77 billion information technology supply chain, providing a potentially critical revenue stream as they build their operations. And government agencies get to work with innovative small firms with solutions that can help make government agencies more efficient and streamlined.
The catalyst for these connections is an exciting new pilot project called RFP-EZ. And the results we are seeing from this program highlight what is possible when you unleash the power of American entrepreneurs.
RFP-EZ is a new and easy way for companies to learn about and compete for government contracts – in particular, small companies that lack the experience or administrative support generally needed to take full advantage of the Government’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process, the means by which many government contract offerings are presented to the business community. The RFP-EZ platform was developed jointly by Federal innovators working in the SBA and private-sector entrepreneurs serving temporary stints in the Federal Government through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, launched by the U.S Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer team last year. Sharing their private- and public-sector insights, the team developed RFP-EZ as a simplified platform aimed at opening up the Government marketplace to a wider range of companies and saving taxpayer money.
Applying agile development principles, the Fellows team designed RFP-EZ over a six-month period, publishing the platform’s code openly on GitHub. The team then launched the pilot by posting five relatively simple website development and database contract offerings, four of which were also announced via the standard government portal, FedBizOps. On a per-project basis, bids received through RFP-EZ were consistently lower than those received through FedBizOps—19% to 41% lower, and over 30% lower on average. Bids made through RFP-EZ also showed less overall variation. In addition, during the pilot period, RFP-EZ attracted more than 270 businesses that until now had never approached the world of Federal contracting.
- Posted byon May 14, 2013 at 1:35 PM EST
On May 16th, the White House is kicking off “We the Geeks,” a new series of Google+ Hangouts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. Topics such as commercial space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, turning science fiction to science fact, and others will be discussed with Administration officials and key private sector contributors.
The first "We the Geeks" Hangout will focus on Grand Challenges, ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. Grand Challenges are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. On April 2nd, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
- Posted byon May 10, 2013 at 3:50 PM EST
Yesterday, President Obama visited Austin, Texas, to kick off his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour. At Capital Factory, a local start-up incubator, he met with technology entrepreneurs and innovative companies that are helping grow our economy and create jobs by building new products and services.
One of those companies, Stormpulse, uses freely available government weather data to help businesses protect themselves and their assets from potentially hazardous weather. Stormpulse CEO Matt Wensing has said that “open government data is one of the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Easier access to government data means growing companies like ours can offer significant value to citizens and enterprises.”
President Barack Obama watches CEO Matt Wensing demonstrate Stormpulse during a tour of Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, May 9, 2013. Capital Factory founder Josh Baer and Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, watch at right. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
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