Fall visits to the farmers market take us back to simpler times when people lived off the land. Today's farmers may provide the same "output" of food, but how they manage the growth and distribution of it has changed dramatically.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established in 1862 and was nicknamed "The People's Department" by President Lincoln because of its mission to support the farmers that feed the nation. Today, the USDA is focused on providing "leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management."
In achieving this mission, the USDA has become a hub for innovation. It was chosen as the first host agency for a modernization Center of Excellence (CoE). Spearheaded by the General Services Administration (GSA), the CoE at USDA was established to accelerate IT modernization across government to improve the public experience and increase operational efficiency. The CoE centralizes top government tech talent and combines it with private sector experts and expertise to implement best practices to move processes and technologies ahead. The CoE is focused on five functional areas: Cloud Adoption, Contact Center, Customer Experience, Data Analytics, and Infrastructure Optimization.
Part of the President's Management Agenda (PMA) calls out leveraging data as a strategic asset for more effective government. In support of this, several pieces of legislation and policy have been created to better enable and even incentivize agencies to make their data available and open for use across government and by citizens.
Federal CIO Suzette Kent recently said that the Federal Data Strategy will be released soon and will prioritize datasets that could help stimulate the economy, protect the nation, and continue important research. The guidelines will present principles that prioritize data security, privacy, and transparency.
This Federal Data Strategy follows the passage of the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act at the beginning of the year. This law requires that all non-sensitive government data be made available in machine-readable formats by default. It also creates a Chief Data Officers Council that will address data governance across agencies.
Even before these laws and guidance were released, we've seen how access to data can impact communities. For example, in Asheville, NC, BeLoved Asheville, an activist group of homeless people, launched the Homeless Voice Project. This project filters public crime data using arrestees' addresses. They were able to show that the homeless population was being disproportionally targeted and arrested by highlighting the number of homeless shelter addresses being used. In Norfolk, VA, community groups are using data to show the impact of re-development on communities, highlighting the size of population displacement that would come with gentrification. These groups are finding there is less "shouting across the table" and common ground is easier to find when arguments are backed with data. Continue reading →
There's a huge buzz and movement about opening up government. There are three phrases that are used frequently in relation to openness in government but each mean something a bit different.[Tweet "The focus on openness is changing the way IT is designed, developed, and implemented. #GovEventsBlog"]
Open Government - This is a core tenant of our democracy, the belief that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. While this has always been a practice of government (via the Freedom of Information Act), with the move to digital records the way people want to receive and the way the government can share information has changed dramatically.
Open Data - This is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone. Much of the information the government holds should be open data, but giving people the access they require has been a stumbling block to open government.
Open Source - This is the technical piece of the "open" puzzle. Open Source is software for which the code is made freely available and may be used and changed. Open Source solutions allow people to not only get at the data but also work with that data in new ways.
Drawing on an unprecedented amount of government data that is easier to access than ever before, more than 11,000 software developers, entrepreneurs, students, and others across the country devoted part of last weekend to building technologies designed to help local, state, and federal governments solve problems and improve their communities.