Alex Howard recently interviewed Steven VanRoekel, the current US CIO. Howard notes, “As the nation’s federal CIO, he has inherited a staggering challenge: evolve the nation’s aging IT systems toward a 21st century model of operations. In the age of big data, he and everyone who works with him must manage a lot of petabytes, and do much more with less. He must find ways to innovate to meet the needs of the federal government and the increased expectations of citizens who transact with cutting-edge IT systems in their personal and professional lives.”

During the interview VanRoekel stated, “The federal government must fundamentally shift how it thinks about digital information and data. Rather than primarily thinking about the final presentation and tightly coupling that presentation with the underlying data (content, information, etc.) — whether it’s a web page or a mobile app — we must employ a data-centric approach that ensures our data is available through multiple channels without developing costly and separate processes for presenting each channel. If we do open data right, we will do web and mobile right at the same time.”

VanRoekel also spoke of the process for improving government data quality: “First, we need to improve the quality of our data by making government services digital from the start. We have made good progress here — online tax filing continues to grow and is becoming the default way people file their taxes, and we have brought both Social Security and passport applications online in this Administration. Second is more consistent use of metadata tags and data standards to increase interoperability of data for use not only within government programs, but by citizens and the private sector. Third, we need to make our information more usable by exposing data through APIs and web services, and providing citizen developers the tools they need to put our data to work, to join us as partners in building better services for the public on top of government data — promoting quality through data’s life cycle.”

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