U.S. Innovation: Todd Park and Steven VanRoekel

2012_06_toddpark1 U.S. CTO Todd Park (right) and CIO Steven VanRoekel address attendees at FedScoop’s U.S. Innovation Summit on Wednesday.

“U.S. Innovation” is a series highlighting speaker presentations from The U.S. Innovation Summit, presented by FedScoop, held June 20, 2012, at The Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Things you never thought U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park would say: “Data is useless,” but those were his words last Wednesday at The U.S. Innovation Summit hosted by FedScoop.


Perhaps, though, the quote needs to be flushed out a little more.

“Data is useless,” Park said. “You can’t pour it on a road and fix it. It’s only useful if it gets applied in the right ways.”

The federal government is trying to get data into the hands of those that can best apply it as part of its innovation strategy, said U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, who presented with Park in the duo’s latest appearance since releasing the Digital Government Strategy in May.

“We’re at an amazing inflection point as a government where we are seeing incredible advances in the way services are available,” VanRoekel said, “and we need to continue to drive for more and drive harder.”

VanRoekel and Park reiterated a number of innovation initiatives they’ve been pushing in recent months from the White House. Of them, transforming the government into a platform that embraces smart technology and open data. The idea is making the government’s wealth of data not just available to developers, but in a usable way that allows them to get the most of that.


Some things that will help that is making “open” the default standard for government data and making sure all data is machine readable.

A big part of that, VanRoekel said, will be the evolution of as outlined in the Digital Government Strategy.

“We started in the crawl stage and now we’re getting ready to walk,” VanRoekel said.

VanRoekel said will transform by adding application programming interfaces and a metadata catalog of the different types of data available from the agencies.

“ will become the developer portal for the federal government,” VanRoekel said.


Also, over the next 12 months, federal agencies must convert citizen services to the mobile environment. All of that put together, VanRoekel and Park hope to create the next generation of industries to be born from government data.

The duo trumpeted the success both weather and global position data had on creating jobs for the country (the latter creating $90 billion in business in the United States last year alone). They hope that will continue to grow in areas like health care and energy and spur anew in sectors like real estate and transportation.

“The possibilities of what data and innovation can do are almost limitless,” Park said. “People already underestimate the amount of government data that they use and there is so much more that can be tapped into.”

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