After listening to Aneesh Chopra’s great speech at Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series I was intrigued by some of the newer Government initiatives around advancing technology and innovation. In case you don’t know Aneesh, he is America’s first Chief Innovation Officer and reports directly to the President.
To see what he was really talking about, I went to one of the sites he mentioned – Challenge.gov. Turns out, it’s a pretty interesting collection of current challenges Government and National Agencies are sponsoring in order promote (as the website calls is): a place where the public and Government can solve problems together.
Besides being very enlightening with just the vast array of challenges (how to cure cancer or how to use fish to help submarines be less detectable underwater), the access to data that this site provides is astounding.
The examples Aneesh uses in his talk center around how just having access to data can enable us to create new and exciting tools. Previously, this data was collected by or reported to Government Agencies and was being incredibly underutilized. Now, we have a chance to build on top of that data and unlock it’s power.
A quick example – did you know that when hospitals collect satisfaction and patient outcome surveys it gets collected by the US Government. Well, that data is now publicly available (albeit in a messy data structure) and with a simple presentation layer someone could build an app or interface that allowed people to see which hospital in their area did the best in treating it’s patients. Hmm, I want that next time I’m in need of going to a hospital.
Again, just looking at the challenges on the site is a real eye opener and great way to spark some creative thinking. I know I’ll be looking at the National Cancer Institute’s cancer dataset pretty closely to see what can be done to help.