The federal government is seeking to make government data open and accessible — a step that government officials and industry advocates hope will promote innovation.
President Obama issued an executive order earlier this month that requires government information to be — by default — available and able to be read by a computer.
“Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness,” the order said.
Federal data, such as weather information and the Global Positioning System, already fuel newscasts and applications, said Todd Park, the federal chief technology officer, in an online video promoting the step.
“As we make more and more government data available ... we’ll see all kinds of new start-ups, new companies and new innovations,” Park said.
For big data-focused companies, the move promises to put more attention on the potential of data analytics and to make it easier to collect information.
Mare Lucas, who runs Reston-based Serendipity, a data analytics-focused spin-off of Reston-based GCE, said it will make it “easier and quicker” to get government information.
“It really opens up a world of data access and speed that people didn’t have before,” she said.
Chris Wilson, vice president for federal government affairs at industry group TechAmerica, said the policy shift will likely affect companies from start-ups to traditional IT businesses.
“A lot depends on the type of data that is put out, how much data is put out, whether it is structured or unstructured, but we think it could lead to tremendous innovation in health care, for example,” he said.
Steven VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer, said in an interview last week that the open data order is particularly focused on interoperability.
“Part of the promise ... is the inside the walls of government part of it,” he said, noting that the order will likely ensure that federal IT systems are better able to interact with each other.
For analytics to be effective, they need to be quickly delivered and accurate, said Rebecca Garcia, director of sales at data analytics company SAS Federal. She said the order will likely help the company better achieve both of those goals.
Providing data quickly “allows [government customers] a more rapid decision-making capability,” she said.
Both VanRoekel and Wilson said the order fits into a far broader federal effort to take better advantage of technology.
“This is an important piece of the overall puzzle that the administration has been rolling out,” Wilson said. “That’s why we welcome it so much.”