May 24, 2012 – President Obama has directed federal departments and agencies to substantially improve the quality and availability of government data within 12 months. The goal of a new strategy is to enable an increasingly mobile population and workforce to access relevant and useful government data any time on any computing device.

“For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need,” Obama wrote in a May 23 memorandum to department and agency leaders. “In addition, at a time when Americans increasingly pay bills and buy tickets on mobile devices, government services often are not optimized for smartphones or tablets, assuming the services are even available online.”

Among other initiatives, the new digital strategy calls for enhancing the government’s Data.gov website to support real-time pulling of data from federal agency sites. The strategy also calls for agencies to deliver information in new ways that “fully utilize” Web and mobile technologies, ensure protection of information, require agencies to create central online resources for outside software developers, adopt standards to make information open and machine-readable by default, and measure Web performance and user satisfaction, according to Obama’s memo.

Doing all this rests on four core principles of the strategy, called Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Service the American People. The principles are:

Information-Centric: Moving from managing documents to managing discrete pieces of data and content that can be tagged, shared, secured, mashed up and presented in a useful way;

Shared-Platform: Working within and across agencies to reduce costs, streamline development, apply consistent standards and ensure consistency in creating and delivering information;

Customer-Centric: Creating, managing and presenting data to enable customers to use it whenever and however they want; and

Security and Privacy: Providing safe and secure delivery and use of digital services to ensure information and privacy protection.

These principals fundamentally will shift how the federal government thinks about digital information, according the strategy.  “Rather than thinking primarily about the final presentation – publishing Web pages, mobile applications or brochures – an information-centric approach focuses on ensuring our data and content are accurate, available and secure. We need to treat all content as data – turning any unstructured content into structured data – then ensure all structured data are associated with valid metadata.”

The strategy is available here. Obama cut IT spending and pushed for heightened data consolidation and cloud computing efforts as part of federal IT spending in 2013.

This story originally appeared at Health Data Management.

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