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Gov 2.0: Roadblocks Remain For Transparency

Speaking at the Gov 2.0 Summit, federal CIO Vivek Kundra said infrastructure upgrades will likely be required.

Now that sites such as Data.gov and the IT Dashboard are online and a directive for government transparency is being finalized, federal CIO Vivek Kundra is sorting out the next steps for putting data online, he said at the Gov 2.0 Summit Thursday in Washington, D.C.

But there are plenty of roadblocks that continue to stand in the way of better public sharing of government information, such as a wealth of decades-old systems, many built on obsolete technologies such as COBOL, that can't handle the spikes in demand that inevitably follow when data is placed into the public domain.

Infrastructure upgrades will likely be required in some places, Kundra implied, for the government to be able to meet the demands of increased transparency.

Cultural issues have an impact as well, especially on the pace of data dumps. "We want to get data out there on as real-time a basis as possible," he said. "When you think of the data supply chain, though, there are far too many people that want to clean up the data before it goes out there."

Compounding that issue, Kundra said, is that there's no easy way around many of the data quality requirements that are especially prevelant with data that could have an effect on the economy, such as unemployment numbers.

As for specifics, Kundra said that the administration will begin placing priority on releasing data that relates to certain public policy issues such as healthcare, energy and education. "We can go online and compare the price of cameras, do the same thing with a car, but if you think of the healthcare industry, how can you get the same information to compare one hospital to another or to compare outcomes?" he said. "Where we're headed is to introduce data sets that shift the debate in the country around public policy."

Kundra also discussed several government agencies' forthcoming pilots of OpenID to provide the public with interactive, customized Web content, without the government having to store extensive personal identity information and without citizens having to create new identities whenever they want to interact with a new government agency.

Today, Kundra said, if people want to make a reservation for a camping site on recreation.gov, the site forces them to create a new account that may be used only a few times ever. That follows across the federal government. "That leads to poor service and to higher costs for the government," Kundra said, calling the infrastructure used to store those identities "disposable" and saying that the current system forces the government to invest in platforms it shouldn't be buying.

However, the pilot will make it possible for citizens to sign onto specifics sites with their accounts from several commercial Websites acting as OpenID providers, including Yahoo and Facebook. "Why not leverage those platforms for services that are not sensitive in nature," he said. "This will allows us to move from websites that are brochure-ware to websites that are interactive and allow people to create their own experiences."


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on leading-edge government IT -- and how the technology involved may end up inside your business. Download the report here (registration required).

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