The opening remarks Tuesday morning at Washington’s Grand Hyatt struck a decidedly more somber tone from last year’s inaugural Gov2.0 Summit. But as some comments were less enthusiastic, they also seemed to acknowledge a deeper truth about using technology to transform government.
“It’s harder than it appears,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc.
“[T]his year the mood is more subdued because we know it’s hard work,” he said, “But I want to remind you that technology revolutions take time.”
Mr. O’Reilly began Gov2.0 Summit by recounting failed efforts to dismiss personal computers in the 1980s as a fad by some tech giants. And later, the Internet was misjudged by media titans.
“I think that what we’re seeing in the Open Government revolution is also something that, over time, will have grown in force and power. And we need to understand that that force and power will not go away regardless of politics of the day, regardless of the commitment of individual institutions – technology has a will of its own.”
O’Reilly said Gov2.0, at its core, focused on the way the Internet has given government the ability to harness the power of citizens and other institutions to tackle the big problems.
“Those problems aren’t going away, but the tools are getting better,” he said.
Given this backdrop, Gov2.0 Summit was the site of several new federal initiatives, including a dedicated developer website for Federal Communications Commission data, and a central platform for government challenges.
FCC.gov/developer has four initial APIs for developers to use and manipulate. The first API, Consumer Broadband Test API, delivers data on the number of tests, average user download/upload speeds and other information. More than one million tests are already cataloged. Other APIs released by the FCC include Census Block linked data, FRN Conversion information and FCC spectrum license data.
Administered by the General Services Administration, Challenge.gov, is an online platform that allows government and citizens to use prizes and challenges to promote innovation. The platform is available for all agencies to use free of charge and any citizen is eligible to sign-up and contribute (also free of charge). So far, over twenty agencies and departments have seeded more than thirty challenges, ranging from a challenge to visualize health care quality to reduce waste at your college’s football game this October.
To conclude his remarks O’Reilly said that government worked better as a platform, rather than as a vending machine of services, so that others could enhance government’s work.
“The private sector is adding value to the efforts of government and that is the real value of this revolution.”