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June 4, 2010

[pdf] Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO

Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, is opening the second day of Personal Democracy Forum.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other peoples ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He says Katie Stanton at the State Dept. says that the difference between consumer and government cultures is “Theres an app for that” vs. “Theres a form for that.”

President Obamas first act in office was to require far more openness. This means changing the defaults, a cultural change. Aneesh says theyre making progress. A year ago, Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO, announced at PDF the IT Dashboard for browsing the new, a tool for accountability. Aneesh points to reform at the Veterans Admin, resulting in cost savings and faster service. Another example: US Citizen and Immigration Services now lets you opt in to having the status of your application be pushed to you, rather than you having to check in. This type of change has little cost, brings benefits, and is beginning to change the culture of government.

Aneesh is announcing “the blue button to liberate personal health data.” Press it and you can get your data from government databases. “Do it with it whatever you want. Its your choice. Its your data.” This will begin this fall with medical and veteran info.

Another example of the change in culture: The Dept of Agriculture wants to inform us about healthy nutrition choices, part of the First Ladys efforts. The Dept has nutritional info on 30,000 products. What to do with it? The government is holding “game jams” across the country — “Apps for Healthy Kids.”

Theyve been building tools to find widely dispersed knowledge. E.g., NASA has today released a report on its experience with the Innocentive prize system. A semi-retired radio frequency engineer won with an idea that exceeded NASAs requirements. “No RFP, no convoluted process, just a smart person” that the prize system uncovered.

Aneesh talks about the Health and Human Services Community Health Data Initiative that debuted two days ago. Its launched with twenty programs that take advantage of the newly opened data. The OMB has required agencies to make data available at any agency site, at a /open address. Microsoft Bing is now showing on maps the info available at, a site few have gone to. Heres an idea from a citizen: Asthmapolis crowdsources data to help visualize outbreaks; participants have gps-aware inhalers.

[And then my computer crashed…]


[pdf] Aneesh Chopra

My computer froze as I was near the end of live-blogging Aneesh Chopra’s keynote at PDF. (Ubuntu.) I’ll try to recover it later.

The quick overview is that it’s amazing to have a person like him in the White House in charge of the change in culture and change in defaults, from processing forms to releasing info out into the wild so that people with ideas can do something with them. It’s our data, he says.

The shift in attitude is astounding.

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