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CIO - Just as the federal government has been working to hasten its shift to cloud computing over the past few years, senior technology officials are now seeking to advance a framework for the government's approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by big data.
Today, at a conference on the cloud and big data hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel described the government-wide effort to make more data available to the public in an ordered format that could provide the basis for new services and applications, startup companies or even entire industries.
"The government is sitting on a treasure trove of that sort [of information]. If you think about the role government plays and could play in cloud and big data, I just think we're at the tip of the iceberg on this stuff."
--U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel
"We are I think at the verge, just at the tipping point of the data economy, both on the big data side ... as well as thinking about government as a platform for value. We're just now starting to see companies founded on government data," VanRoekel says. "We can greatly impact the lives of every American just by unlocking pieces of data."
Real Estate, Healthcare and Energy Business Tie Into Fed Data
VanRoekel cites the real estate sites Trulia and Zillow, which have incorporated government data into their listings, and looks ahead to the untold number of startups that could be launched around government data on health, energy and other areas.
"The government is sitting on a treasure trove of that sort [of information]," he says. "If you think about the role government plays and could play in cloud and big data, I just think we're at the tip of the iceberg on this stuff."
Proponents of unlocking government data point to the success stories of the National Weather Service and the availability of location information from the government's GPS program, both of which have formed the basis for numerous commercial ventures.
Following in the footsteps of the federal government's cloud-first policy, the White House last May released its digital government strategy, a multi-pronged initiative that addresses the use of technology within departments and agencies and directs federal CIOs to make more of their data available to the public as part of the government-as-a-platform strategy. That includes directives on presenting data in machine-readable format and rolling out APIs to enable developers to build applications on top of the raw data sets.
Federal CIO to Coordinate Big Data Like the Cloud
NIST's role in the government's treatment of big data involves working out common definitions and standards, a process similar to what the agency has been doing in cloud computing, involving coordination with federal CIOs to develop reference architectures and taxonomies, use cases and a technology roadmap.