Overheard: Word of the Day

May 27 2009   6:06PM GMT

Government tech – President Obama, tear down those walls!

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

“When Vivek Kundra became the federal government’s chief information officer, he talked about the value of using standard off-the-shelf computer systems instead of the custom-built ones that government agencies are inclined to buy.  With the new government site Data.gov, Mr. Kundra is showing off the value of standard data formats as well.”

Saul Hansell, Data.gov: Unlocking the Federal Filing Cabinets

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is National Information Exchange Model (NIEM).  Basically, it’s a framework for ensuring that different government agencies can share information more effectively while still being able to maintain their own proprietary databases.

Much to my amazement, standardized technology in the US government is becoming more than just a wish.

Remember back in 1983 when the United States government invaded Grenada? There’s a famous story about an Army officer in Granada who needed air support and wanted to communicate with a Navy aircraft carrier he could see offshore.  The radios that each branch of the military had purchased operated on different frequencies, so the officer ended up using his telephone calling card in a public phone booth to call Fort Bragg, Virginia and get his message relayed to the Navy — who forwarded the request for air coverage to the ship.  The story reached the ears of Senator Barry Goldwater and he pushed for the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (more commonly known as the Goldwater-Nichols Act).

Anyway, it looks like those days of government technology silos are going the way of the Berlin Wall.  Data.gov is another step in the right direction.

A primary goal of Data.gov is to “improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications).”  Think of it as Government Information Technology 2.0.  Thank you, President Obama. Tear down those walls!

From the newly launched Data.gov site:

Data.gov includes searchable catalogs that provide access to “raw” datasets and various tools. In the “raw” data catalog, you may access data in XML, Text/CSV, KML/KMZ, Feeds, XLS, or ESRI Shapefile formats. The catalog of tools links you to sites that include data mining and extraction tools and widgets. Datasets and tools available on Data.gov are searchable by category, agency, keyword, and/or data format.

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