the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Big Data, Open Data & the Federal Agencies

Summary: 
On Thursday, June 19, leaders from civil society, industry, academia, and 40 Federal departments and agencies met at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy's Massive Data Institute to discuss how Federal agencies can continue to unlock government data to drive innovation and improve services.

Open data and big data -- and the responsible management and protection of that data -- are key components of the President’s agenda to drive innovation and economic growth.

On Thursday, June 19, leaders from civil society, industry, academia, and 40 Federal departments and agencies met at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy's Massive Data Institute to discuss how Federal agencies can continue to unlock government data to drive innovation and improve services.  Drawing from the White House Working Group report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, this event focused on opening and using government data, while appropriately protecting privacy and preventing the use of data to discriminate against vulnerable populations in our society. 

John Podesta, who led the White House study on big data, spoke at last week’s event.  “This conference is an important step toward realizing our goals of making more data open and freely available to the public, harnessing the power of big data, and improving the speed and effectiveness with which we deliver public services at all levels of government.

“Even as we continue making more data open to the public, we need to be deliberate in building the technical capacity in agencies to use big data tools, to recognize potential privacy concerns early on and take deliberate action to protect against them, and to ensure that partners and grantees use data responsibly.”

You can see the video of the public event here.

Since the earliest days of this Administration, the Federal government has taken unprecedented steps to make government data more available to citizens, companies, and innovators. Freely available data from the U.S. government is an important national resource, serving as fuel for entrepreneurship, scientific discovery, and economic growth. Last year, President Obama signed an executive order that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information, and Federal agencies continue to make progress by unveiling new plans to unlock and improve even more valuable data sets from government stores.

The value that can be generated from the use of big data is not hypothetical.  Last fall, OSTP showcased 28 public-private partnerships harnessing big data to enhance national priorities, including economic growth and job creation, education and health, energy and sustainability, public safety and national security, and global development. 

The White House Working Group’s findings in the big data study reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to make government data more open and to promote the innovation fueled by big data, but also made specific recommendations for the Federal government to expand its technical capacity to handle this data responsibly.

Nick Sinai and Nicole Wong are U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officers at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.