At Gov 2.0 Summit, Democratizing Data Is the Watchword

BY Chris Amico  September 7, 2010 at 12:15 PM EST

The Rundown is covering this week’s Gov2.0 Summit in Washington, D.C., where a mix of technologists, activists and industry professionals have gathered to talk about methods to run governments in more open and useful manners.

Gov2.0 is a catch-all term coined by publisher Tim O’Reilly. It includes everything from government transparency and open data, to procurement reform and new kinds of diplomacy.

At the core is the idea that government should act more like a platform for development, on which citizens can build the services they need, and less like a vending machine of services.

“The idea of being a platform provider is that you do the least possible, not the most possible to enable others to build on what you do,” O’Reilly said in a video advocating open data for public transit agencies:

Carl Malamud is one of the forerunners of this movement. In his opening keynote address, he called for three reforms the federal government needs now:

  • Finish the open gov revolution. “We need open data standards,” Malamud said. This means both releasing government data in regular formats that can be read by machines, and changing public record laws so public information ends up online before someone asks.

  • National digitization: “If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can launch the national archive into cyberspace.” On top of scanning government-held documents, Malamud called for copyright reform, so taxpayers have access to information they pay for.

  • An open systems revolution: “Our federal government spends $89.1 billion a year on information technology. Much of that is wasted effort. We build systems so badly it is crippling the federal government.” Malamud called for a computer commission to conduct agency by agency reviews, and to change standard practices from “over reliance on proprietary systems” to one based on open source foundations.