Fresh off of a splashy announcement of the new federal digital strategy in New York, Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel and Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park described some of the details of the plan on home turf Thursday.
They emphasized how the new strategy would harness innovation inside and outside government, bring data and services closer to American citizens through mobile technology and empower a mobile workforce. They also noted particular attention to security and privacy via a mobile and wireless security baseline and reference architecture as well as standardized implementation of digital privacy controls.
“The essence of a great plan is that we have people to execute and I look around here at the CIO community and others outside government. … I see we have a real opportunity here to transform government,” VanRoekel said.
The new strategy lays out a framework and a set of action plans over the next 12 months for moving information safely and securely to the right stakeholders while using fewer resources. The Office of Management and Budget unveiled the long-awaited roadmap Wednesday.
He and Park appeared particularly enthused on Thursday about open data initiatives and a Presidential Innovation Fellows program, for which they said they would be identifying candidates in the next few weeks.
“The idea here is to have this team speed and deepen the release of government data in machine readable form and connect and publicize that in the world of entrepreneurs,” Park said. “We can speed and broaden integration of data…and turn it into magic.”
Analysts have so far applauded the strategy, which also outlines a plan for agencies to execute a strategic approach to help government “innovate with less” and deliver better citizen services as well as a new innovation center run by the General Services Administration.
But a member of Thursday’s audience, Andrew Feinberg, who writes for The Hill, said the strategy sounds a bit too similar to the 2009 Open Government effort from the Obama Administration.
“Haven’t we seen this movie before?” he asked. “Aren’t we just warming something over? How is this different?”
VanRoekel responded: “This is an evolution of open gov work. It’s not the same. … What’s different now that wasn’t the same even three and a half years ago is the convergence of open data and the convergence of mobile and cybersecurity. Facebook wasn’t around the same way it is now. Twitter wasn’t around in the same way it is now. This is the logical next step. Of taking the open gov initiative a step further.
Park added: “You build and learn as you go. We’ve learned through experience. … As opposed to just putting out data and saying we’re done … we are taking the logical next step.”
Thursday’s event included a CIO reaction panel after VanRoekel’s and Park’s presentation and explored what was different about the new digital government strategy from past efforts to unify technology efforts across government.
One aspect, said Michael Byrne, Chief Geographic Officer, Federal Communications Commission, is represented by a footnote (Footnote 18) in the roadmap, which for the first time removes the distinction between different types of data. “The concept is subtle but important: It says all content is data,” he said.
More broadly, he said, “This is the first digital strategy that lets the industry know where (the federal government) is going” in terms of a coherent, longer term direction involving technology.
Sheila Campbell, director, Center for Excellence in Digital Government, General Services Administration, and who is leading the Web Reform Task Force, said another aspect of the plan that was more clearly articulated was “the approach to develop content once, and share it many times.” She cited how the State of California this week had an implemented a statewide approach for managing and tagging content so it could be deployed on many agency websites at once.
“It’s a much bolder strategy, with more practical steps,” than previous plans, said Rick Holgate, CIO, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and who co-lead of the Mobile Task Force working for VanRoekel’s office.
Richard Spires, CIO, Department of Homeland Security and vice-chair, of the Federal CIO Council agreed the plan “is quite specific, and quite directive” compared to prior plans. But what excited him about it is the blueprint it offers to “drive mobility at different layers” in government, he said — and the extent to which the plan represents the work of, and has buy-in from, the federal CIOs across government.
Officials at ACT-IAC are continuing to solicit reaction from members of the government IT community through an online survey available to members and non-members.
This story was updated May 25 to identify Andrew Feinberg mentioned in the story.