Report from the Gov 2.0 Summit

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Clearly designed as a conference to start but certainly not finish the conversation, last week's Gov 2.0 Summit assembled an impressive cast of presenters and interviewers. Key White House decision makers, government innovators and industry enthusiasts took the stage and lined the hallways for three days.

Having spent the last five years focusing on helping government adopt Open Source software and its collaboration model, my radar was tuned for explicit mentions / inclusions / endorsements of Open Source software. It appeared that leveraging Open Source software to solve some of the thornier technology problems challenging government (think healthcare and public safety interoperability) had been more implied than expressed in recent months. For the wider community looking for more signs of game change, the event provided plenty of evidence that Open Source is clearly at play.

Paul Rademacher, Google and, Brian Behlendorf, White House Consultant and Leonard Lin,

The Google-hosted reception Monday evening packed the public space at their headquarters on New York Avenue. The event was attended by private industry, publicists and social media converts, non-profit and Open Source community leadership and government attendees and offered a nice opportunity to mix it up after a day of the Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase I sadly missed. Some of the sessions however are video-archived on the web.

Lifting off in a small flurry of debate over the right hash tag for the Gov2.0 Summit, the two day Gov2.0 Summit opened with the and energy and grin of Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer. Chopra earned a reputation for creative collaboration with industry in his prior role as the Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia and brings the same to the federal scene. Virginia's extensive use of Open Source and open collaboration, as well as that of former D.C. CTO — now Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, is well known.

The conference brought attendees through a whirlwind tour of recent innovation in government IT: data transparency projects like Apps for Democracy and resulting mash-ups and visualization as inexpensive and "dirty" Open Source solutions to real problems. Open Source and its exceptional benefits of open standards and interoperability were highlighted in many presentations.

Conference highlights:
  • Beth Noveck provided the most comprehensive picture of what progress had been made by the new administration and its policy road map.

  • Best of Show for Crowd-Rallying: Carl Malamud discussed the need to make judiciary information — data and hearings — truly public in a day where “public” means “on the Internet.” In his speech designed in part for an audience not in the room, his closing comment asserted government operating systems should be Open Sourced brought the crowd to resounding applause.

  • Favorite Projects: Anything visualized — and most frequently enabled by Open Source.

  • Killer App: All things Geo-spatial.

  • Significant Announcement: The General Services Administration (GSA) will begin experimenting with the use of OpenID to manage identity on government web sites.

David Recordon, OpenID Foundation Board of Directors

For the seasoned government attendees, there was in reality not a great deal of new information to be had. That was, in fact, good news; as one government manager shared with me, social media tools like Twitter and GovLoop have made it much easier to stay in touch with what other agencies are up to, plus the 2009 Federal IT Strategy has been broadly distributed and much discussed internally.

The White House will release its new Open Government Directive in a few weeks and will set federal agency wheels in motion. Implementation will be challenging and require the philosophy of change to shift into gear. Industry and government seem to agree that the next non-trivial challenge to technology innovation will be procurement reform.

Ed. Note: Post updated to correct caption.