When the Internet revolution arrived in the 1990s, the U.S. Government embraced this new medium to interact with the American people. Today, what started as basic information pages has evolved into sophisticated transactional systems that allow us to pay taxes online, download medical records, and so much more.
Like the 1990s, we are now in the midst of another important shift in how people consume and deliver information and services. In 2011, global smartphone shipments exceeded personal computer shipments for the first time in history, and more Americans will soon access the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs. The rise of mobile further compounds the challenge of providing high-quality digital services in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
That’s why President Obama issued a directive today to make important services accessible from your phone and charged me with developing a comprehensive strategy to build a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people.
At its core, the strategy takes a coordinated, information- and customer-centric approach to changing how the government works and delivers services to the American people. Designing for openness from the start – making open data the default for government IT systems and embracing the use of web APIs – enables us to more easily deliver information and services through multiple channels, including mobile, and engage the public and America’s entrepreneurs as partners in building a better government.
Treating the government as an open platform in this way encourages innovation. Just look at how the government’s release of GPS and weather data fueled billion dollar industries. It also makes government more efficient and able to adapt to inevitable changes in technology.
Over the next 12 months, you will start to see an important shift across the Federal Government. Agencies will increasingly open up their valuable data to the public and set up Developer pages to give external developers tools to build new services. To make sure there’s no wrong door for accessing government data, we will transform Data.gov into a data and API catalog that in real time pulls directly from agency websites. Agencies will mobilize two of their priority customer-facing services, moving us closer to serving the American people anytime, anywhere, on the device of their choice. We will do all of this while reworking the Federal government’s own use of mobile – saving taxpayer dollars and providing better service by bringing consistency to the way we buy and build for an increasingly mobile workforce.
As President Obama has said, “I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives?” Through the Digital Government Strategy, we look forward to partnering with America’s innovators – government, industry, and citizen leaders – to implement the President’s vision.
Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer – for more information visit www.cio.gov.