Obama's CTO choice may usher in mashup era

There’s speculation that President-elect Barack Obama’s chief technology officer may be the District of Columbia’s CTO, Vivek Kundra. An announcement is due Wednesday.

Kundra may be a strong choice. The District's CTO is its point-of-the-spear in making government accessible, something Obama wants for the federal government. The clearest evidence of the District's approach is in what it calls, simply, its Data Catalog.

The District’s Data Catalog provides data on crime incidents, construction projects, building permits and other information in a variety of formats that can be used in live feeds, Google Maps, or just downloaded.

To encourage innovative use of this data, a contest was held last fall called “Apps for Democracy” that awarded prizes to developers who created applications and mashups from the catalog's data. You can see the results here.

The District’s data is also being used by local neighborhood blogs, (see JDLand) to enrich their own offerings.

Using information technology to enable data access can unleash creativity and ideas that can provide government and  citizens with new insights. The benefits flow both ways. As Kundra wrote recently on his blog: The District of Columbia is bringing people closer to government through collaborative technologies like wikis, data feeds, videos and dashboards. We’re throwing open DC’s warehouse of public data so that everyone—constituents, policymakers, and businesses—can meet in a new digital public square.

Open data access isn’t a failsafe. As more data is made available, users will likely seek audits of it to ensure it isn’t filtered. The integrity and completeness of the data will be as much of an issue as access to it, but first there has to be access. 

If Kundra is picked as federal CTO, the District’s Data Catalog and its “Apps for Democracy” contest, may be a sign of what’s ahead  for the federal government: The arrival of the mashup era.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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