Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Join the Conversation on Big Data and Privacy

    On March 3, the White House Office of Science and Technology policy (OSTP) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) co-hosted a thought-provoking conference about the state of the art in big-data analytics and privacy technologies. Counselor to the President John Podesta and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker gave keynote addresses at the event. The conference attracted some of the top technologists working on leading-edge big data projects in a range of important areas, including healthcare, genomics, education, and transportation, as well as privacy-enhancing technologies. In case you missed it, you can find the MIT webcast here.

    I am also pleased to announce the second in the series of public events that OSTP is co-hosting with academic institutions across the country.  On March 17, OSTP, the Data & Society Research Institute, and New York University will host a conference to explore the social, cultural, and ethical implications of big data. You can find more information about this event on the Data & Society Research Institute website, here.

    As John Podesta remarked in his keynote address at MIT, the discussion of big data should not be confined to Washington or to academia. This issue is of such great importance and involves an array of technologies already so pervasive that it demands a robust, public conversation about how we—as  a Nation and as individuals—can realize the great benefits of big data while also protecting privacy and other values. 

    Toward that end, today, OSTP is releasing a Request for Information seeking public comment on the ways in which big data may impact privacy, the economy, and public policy. The full Request for Information can be found here. Comments are due by March 31, 2014, and can be sent to We hope you will join this important conversation.

    Nicole Wong is U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

  • Presidential Innovation Fellows Round 3: Serve. Create. Innovate.

    Today, we are very excited to announce that applications are now being accepted  for the third round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. This initiative pairs talented, diverse individuals from outside government with top Federal innovators to implement game-changing projects that make the Federal Government work better for the American people. 

    At its core, the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program is as strong as the incredible people that are willing to join this effort and serve their country. That’s why we want the best and brightest individuals—original thinkers, gifted designers, tech-savvy strategists, private-sector doers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and talented developers and engineers—to offer up their skills and expertise to create huge value for the American public.

  • Preparing Now for Our Climate Future

    Our climate is changing.  We are not just seeing global increases in air and ocean temperatures, we are seeing changes across the United States:  extended periods of unusual heat, a greater number of heavier downpours, more severe regional drought and wildfires in parts of the American West, permafrost thawing in Alaska, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threatening coastal communities.  At the same time, much of our Nation’s infrastructure has been designed for the climate that we have had, and not the changing climate we now are experiencing and can expect in the future. 

    President Obama believes we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged.  That’s why, last year, he launched a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change, prepare for the impacts of a changing climate on American communities and businesses, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge.

    Even as we act to reduce carbon pollution, we know some impacts of climate change are already unavoidable. The Federal Government has an obligation to support American communities by protecting critical infrastructure and natural resources, advancing science that informs planning and investments, establishing policies that promote resilience, and ensuring that Federal operations and facilities continue to protect and serve citizens in a changing climate. The President’s Climate Action Plan prioritizes this work and integrates consideration of climate impacts and risks into Federal programs so that we are making the best possible use of our taxpayer dollars.

    In his Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2015 being transmitted to Congress today, President Obama is following through on those commitments and taking a wide range of steps to “up our game” in promoting preparedness for, and resilience against, the impacts of climate change.  This includes robust support for State, local, and tribal preparedness efforts, analysis of vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure, creation of incentives to address those vulnerabilities, and development and dissemination of better information and planning tools. 

  • Helping More Schools Be “Future Ready”

    Last Friday, the President welcomed students from around the country to the first-ever White House Film Festival, featuring short films made by students about the intersection of technology and education.  The Festival was part of a series of events in recent weeks highlighting the President’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99% of K-12 students to high-speed Internet within the next five years.

    Students submitted more than 2,000 videos showcasing not only how they use technology in the classroom today but also the impact they envision technology will have on education in the future.

    Earlier this month, at Buck Lodge Middle School, the President articulated that to achieve the goal of harnessing technology for excellence in education, the public and private sectors will have to collaborate in four critical areas: leadership; empowering teachers; providing access to high quality content solutions and low cost devices; and robust high-speed Internet connectivity. 

    This kind of cooperation was on display today in the form of a number of new commitments announced at the Film Festival.  For example, Adobe announced it would make available over $300 million worth of software for free to teachers and students, and Prezi, which makes a software tool for creating memorable presentations, will provide $100 million in Edu Pro licenses for high schools and educators across America. This pushes the total value of private-sector commitments to the ConnectED initiative to over $1 billion.

  • Connecting Kids from Diverse Backgrounds to Tech Skills

    There is no better time than the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Week of Action Celebrating STEM and Black History Month to highlight the tremendous progress being made at organizations, schools, and companies across America to advance the growing “Tech Inclusion” movement—aimed at connecting students from diverse backgrounds to technology classes, skills, and careers.  

    In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. The President noted that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to America’s economic future, and that students with STEM skills will be a driving force making the Nation competitive, creative, and innovative.  And we know that  it’s in the country’s best interest to ensure that this STEM workforce taps into America’s full talent pool and harnesses what is one of the Nation’s greatest assets—diversity. 

    That’s why the White House has issued a call to tech innovators to work together to ensure that all youth—particularly those from underserved and historically underrepresented communities, including women and girls—have the opportunity to study STEM subjects and participate in the technology sector.

    I had a chance to chat with a few all-star individuals who are making strides toward our shared goal of connecting kids from communities across America to tech opportunities. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Startup America Going Strong at Three Years

    Last month, President Obama began his State of the Union address by praising the role of America’s entrepreneurs in expanding opportunity for all:

    Today in America…an entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. 

    Last month also marked the third anniversary of Startup America, a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the Nation.  In 2011, President Obama issued an all-hands-on-deck call to action for Federal agencies, Congress, and the private sector to help increase the success of entrepreneurs across the country.

    Here’s a look at three big ways the Startup America initiative has led to action over the past three years:

    1.  Expanding access to capital: Two years ago, the President sent to Congress his Startup America Legislative Agenda, which proposed three ways to expand access to capital for innovative companies, from crowdfunding to “mini public offerings” all the way to initial public offerings (IPOs). Congress responded and in April 2012, the President signed the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, enacting these proposals to encourage startups and support our Nation’s small businesses. Thanks to this law, today smaller emerging growth companies have a smoother path to transparent capital markets through an “IPO On-Ramp,” which provides a maximum five-year phase-in for certain costly audit requirements, consistent with investor protections. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed new rules designed to allow startups and small businesses to more efficiently raise capital from investors, including through streamlined “Regulation A+” mini public offerings and through a new class of regulated crowdfunding platforms.  As the President said in 2012 when signing the JOBS Act, expanding the promise of crowdfunding is a potential game-changer because “start-ups and small business will now have access to a big, new pool of potential investors—namely, the American people. For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.”