Back in May, I had the honor of being appointed to the newly established Maryland Council on Open Data. The Council had its inaugural meeting in Baltimore yesterday and was heavily attended, including attendance by Governor Martin O’Malley. I’ll discuss his remarks to the group later.
As the first meeting of a new group, it went off largely as I expected. The agenda consisted primarily of an overview of the establishing legislation, a review of ethics requirements, demos of the existing open data portals, discussion of the history of open data in Maryland, and remarks from the Governor.
It’s no secret that I am contractor who spends a lot of my time attempting to develop software for defense users. I’ve been doing this for a long time, though I have added other customers to my portfolio over the years. The process of development in this arena gets more frustrating by the day. Recently, for example, a group policy update was pushed that removed any browser other than Internet Explorer from our development machines and rolled Internet Explorer back to version 9. These are just the latest such setbacks to productivity and they represent every stereotype we’ve ever heard about Federal Government computing.
Thankfully, there are countervailing examples which point to how things could be. One such example is the Technology and Innovation Fellowship at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This two-year fellowship program provides an opportunity to show how Federal software can be developed, with an open-source-first approach, and also how software development can occur, via remote teams and distributed collaboration. These are not new concepts in the overall marketplace but are still fairly exotic in the Beltway region. Ultimately, the fellowship holds out the possibility of building technology that actually helps government work better and shows how modern tools and working arrangements be applied in the Federal Government.
I was clued into this fellowship program via a tweet by Mike Byrne, who has already helped show the way via the National Broadband Map at the FCC, and who is now at the CFPB. There are very few people I’ve met in the Federal Government who have a better vision for modernizing IT development and acquisition, coupled with the ability to get things done. If you’re of a technical bent and looking to work inside the Federal Government, this fellowship program may be something you want to check out.
On what seems to be turning into SpatiaLite Monday, Sandro Furieri also announced on the SpatiaLite Google Group the availability of a stable version of SpatiaLite for Android.
I am happy to see that this version was developed and contributed back by the US Army Geospatial Center. The fact that they contributed back to the project under a standard open-source license is a nice step from a DoD organization.
The message is quoted below:
I’m really proud to announce you all that finally a rock solid stable and really easy-to-be-deployed binary porting of SpatiaLite for the Android platform is now available for download .
A detailed tutorial  explaining how-to deploy and use SpatiaLite on Android platforms has been kindly contributed by Andrea Antonello, who spent many long hours during the last week while performing a thorough testing of SpatiaLite-Android, then deciding to publicly share his experiences with the SpatiaLite community. Feel absolutely free to pay a beer to Andrea; he’ll surely appreciate 😉
One of the most compelling recent success stories for open-source geospatial tools in the Federal Government has been the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Broadband Map initiative. It has been a very visible example of the stability, scalability, flexibility, and power of open-source geospatial tools.
The full paper, in my opinion, is recommended reading for anyone working with geospatial technologies in the government space. While the Broadband Map has rightfully garnered significant attention based upon its success, especially in terms of performance and scalability, the paper does a good job of reminding us that the map is not an end goal in itself, but a step toward the larger policy goal of expanding broadband access. The paper does an excellent job of illustrating how top-level policy goals were broken down into actionable parts that resulted in a concrete product such as the Broadband Map. In so doing, it walks us through the introduction and fostering of an open culture within the FCC that resulted not only in the Broadband Map but also in the development of open APIs and the availability of FCC tools as open-source projects themselves.
In its conclusions, the paper also makes compelling observations about the power of focused policy goals to drive the use of technology standing in stark contrast to generic overarching technical policies, such as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) which are disconnected from specific policy goals and achieve little traction.
If you are interested not only in geospatial technologies, but also the link between policy and technology implementation, and the cultural change that can be brought about by open-source technologies, you should consider attending the event at the Wilson Center on the 15th. While not a universal blueprint, the National Broadband Map makes a compelling case study.
Michael Byrne of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave a really good talk at FOSS4G, telling the story of the FCC National Broadband Map application, which is built on open-source geospatial tools. In addition to being open-source, it’s a modern web system that makes diligent use of caching and other techniques to achieve great performance. I do a lot of work in the Federal space and, in my opinion, it’s one of best public-facing Federal web tools deployed in recent memory.
Top-down, large scale spatial-data-integration-by-directive simply doesn’t have the track record of success to justify the costs…
This resonates well with observations that I have made during the course of my recent work with the Arkansas GIO office. The immediate focus of that work was to help AGIO assess the current state of their GeoStor platform and gather data about current and emerging capabilities in order to support decision-making about whether to migrate to a hosted (cloud) environment. In the course of doing that work, I learned about the collaborative approach AGIO has taken with the cities and counties of Arkansas, which also informs some of the functional requirements of GeoStor. Continue reading “Open Government, Open Data and Some Lessons from Arkansas”