Edward K. Zimmerman, deputy assistant secretary for communications and information of the Commerce Department from 1979 to 1981, died of cancer Dec. 19 at his home in Oakton. He was 54.

Mr. Zimmerman was special assistant to the director of the White House Office of Planning and Evaluation during the administrations of presidents Carter and Reagan.

He developed the White House's first domestic information display system, a multi-agency data base used for domestic policy-making decisions. It included demographics and other diverse information from government agencies needed to make decisions about social policy.

A resident of this area for 20 years, Mr. Zimmerman was an expert in telecommunications and information handling. He had worked in recent years as a consultant.

At the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, he was responsible for formulating national information policy as well as deregulation, market development, international trade, office automation and other issues.

A native of Elizabeth City, N.C., Mr. Zimmerman attended the University of North Carolina, and served from 1960 to 1962 in the Army as a computer specialist.

Before moving to Washington to join Computer Sciences Corp. as a senior technical consultant, he worked for computer companies in this country and in Birmingham, England.

From 1973 to 1977, Mr. Zimmerman was director of master calender services for the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. He was responsible for the design and operation of a central clearinghouse of Bicentennial information.

After leaving the White House, he was executive director of the National Computer Graphics Association here before becoming a management consultant in telecommunications and advanced technology. His clients included the 3-M Corp.

He is survived by his wife, Carol Ann De Silvio Zimmerman of Oakton; two sons, Edward William Zimmerman and Carson Freas Zimmerman of Oakton; a daughter, Joanne Zimmerman of Vienna; and a brother, Martin Zimmerman of Rocky Mount, N.C.