On Tuesday, President Obama joined 40 Heads of State on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to unveil the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government, an ambitious effort to promote accountability, empower people with information they “can readily find and use”, and ensure public officials tap into the expertise and wisdom of the American people when setting policy.
Consistent with the goals of harnessing the creativity of the American people, a national plan for the United States has been designed in consultation with a wide range of civil society groups, academics, business leaders, and the general public. This plan will support our Nation’s job creators, especially in industries investing in productivity-enhancing digital infrastructure. In the healthcare sector alone, a recently published McKinsey study estimated a possible $1-300 billion annual productivity gain. Here are three highlights on how the national plan can catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship:
“Doubling Down” on Data.gov Communities: Over the past two years, the Administration has published an unprecedented amount of information in “computer-friendly” formats (over 390,000 data sets) freely available for developers without intellectual property constraint. To spur use, we’ve posted over 100 challenges, prizes or contests ranging from the First Lady’s “Apps for Healthy Kids” to the Vice President’s “Apps Against Abuse” – inviting students, hobbyists and professionals alike to demonstrate our capacity to solve the seemingly unsolvable through innovation.
In 2011, we've worked to catalyze a growing movement of entrepreneurs and innovators harnessing open data to build sustainable new products or services through the launch of Data.gov “communities” in areas like health and energy. The plan calls on us to double the number of communities this year by expanding into education, R&D, and public safety. More importantly, we will focus like a hawk on connecting innovators to relevant data and unapologetically celebrate those products and services making a difference in the lives of everyday Americans.
“Smart Disclosure”: An important ingredient in driving productivity growth, especially in national priority areas like health, energy, and education, is the ability to measure outcomes. Since June 2010, the Administration has been promoting the use of disclosure as a low-cost, high-impact regulatory tool. For example, healthcare.gov provides access to health insurance market information that had previously been difficult to find – including denial rates and other relevant measures for an individual when searching for insurance options that best meet personal needs.
To build on this work, the plan calls out recently issued guidance to Federal agencies on “smart disclosure”. While we are broadly supporting agencies and departments over the next year to ensure the timely release of complex information in standardized, machine-readable formats, we are particularly focused on catalyzing new products and services in areas that spur productivity growth – value-based payments in healthcare, higher education and energy use.
“Government as a Platform”: The infrastructure of the open data movement itself is evolving. While we are proud of the public reception to open government applications like data.gov, challenge.gov, the redesigned federalregister.gov and so forth, we are inspired by the limitless potential for governments within the U.S. and around the world to develop new and exciting tools that reflect openness as a core value in governance.
To seed this movement, the plan calls on the Administration, in partnership with the Government of India, to release “Data.gov-in-a-Box” as an open source version of the United States’ Data.gov portal and India’s “India.gov.in” document portal. In the coming months, we will contribute the core set of applications that facilitate access to open government data, the mechanisms to extend such applications by any third party developer, and to inspire the public and private sector to engage in a “Race to the Top” to facilitate the use of open data in new products and services.
The U.S. National Action Plan includes plenty of other important initiatives to support the relationship between job creators and the government, including a commitment to publish guidelines on how to access scientific data produced through unclassified federal research funding, the ability to tap into their expertise on relevant public policy deliberations through an “ExpertNet” platform, and a global “Apps” competition drawing a global cadre of scientists and concerned citizens to harness open data to solve global challenges including weather impacts and the depletion of ocean resources.
We remain inspired by the growing number of open innovators and are confident this plan will accelerate this trend and increase the probability we invent our way out of some of the most pressing challenges that confront us.
Aneesh Chopra is US Chief Technology Officer