New CIO's vision: Democratizing Data

DC's data feed of crime data on Google Maps links a police report to the location. W.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

DC's data feed of crime data on Google Maps links a police report to the location.

W. David Stephenson knows our new federal CIO pretty well: he's been cowriting a book with him: Democratizing Data, to be published by O'Reilly. So I turned to Stephenson to ask him for an inside look at Vivek Kundra. His thoughts:

Vivek has many wonderful attributes: he's truly one of the most noble people I've ever met. A couple of things about him:
  • He's most motivated by his vision of the Digital Public Square, a digital revival of the Athenian democracy in which the electorate aren't passive recipients of government services, but actively involved in enlightened debate and co-creation. That, in part, was behind the Apps for Democracy contests.
  • He's going to demand accountability and performance from contractors: each tech project in DC was handled as if it was a stock: there are very cool displays all around the OCTO office showing real-time performance indicators (there are no excuses this way: if your program's in trouble, everyone knows it) . If your project doesn't meet certain performance standards by the end of the quarter, it is "sold," or, as the late John Mitchell might have put it, "terminated with extreme prejudice."
  • Watch for BIG things from the new data.gov site. In many ways the best thing he did, largely because of the need to rebuild faith in government after the Marion Barry era, was the 270 real-time data feeds they released through the Citywide Data Warehouse. Not only did that invite scrutiny by watchdog groups and the media, but also it allowed entrepreneurs to create cool mashups, especially with geo-spatial data. We've barely started to scratch the surface in that area. <li.I bet he's also going to transform the government workplace for the better. He's emphatic that "every worker is a knowledge worker," and, through dashboards (they used a very cool, low-cost one from Tableau, in Portland) they gave all workers access to real-time, actionable data to make better decisions.

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