from the perhaps... dept
But, of course, talk is cheap (especially in politics). And, while Chopra (and Vivek Kundra, the government's CIO) both actually have a nice track record of accomplishing these sorts of goals in their past jobs, the proof is in what's actually getting done. We'd already mentioned at least one success story with the IT dashboard at USASpending.gov, but can it continue? I have to admit, a second thing that impressed me about Chopra was that, even with such a success, he didn't focus on it. The fact that he got together such a site in such a short period of time is impressive enough, and while he mentioned it in his talks, most of them were much more focused not on what he'd already done, but on what he was going to do -- and the plans all seemed quite achievable.
So I have to agree with Anil Dash, that one of the most interesting tech "startups" to watch this year is the federal government of the US. The tech projects that they're already coming out with are compelling and well done. As Anil notes:
What's remarkable about these sites is not merely that they exist; There had been some efforts to provide this kind of information in the past. Rather, what stands out is that they exhibit a lot of the traits of some of the best tech startups in Silicon Valley or New York City. Each site has remarkably consistent branding elements, leading to a predictable and trustworthy sense of place when you visit the sites. There is clear attention to design, both from the cosmetic elements of these pages, and from the thoughtfulness of the information architecture on each site. (The clear, focused promotional areas on each homepage feel just like the "Sign up now!" links on the site of most Web 2.0 companies.) And increasingly, these services are being accompanied by new APIs and data sources that can be used by others to build interesting applications.There's plenty going on in the administration that I disagree with and am troubled by -- but efforts on the tech side are something worth applauding, while also watching to see what the folks there can do in the next few years.
That last point is perhaps most significant. We've seen the remarkable innovation that sprung up years ago around the API for services like Flickr, and that continues full-force today around apps like Twitter. But who could have predicted just a year or two ago that we might have something like Apps for America, the effort being led by the Sunlight Foundation, Google, O'Reilly Media and TechWeb to reward applications built around datasets provided by Data.gov. The tools that have already been built are fascinating. And, frankly, they're a lot more compelling than most of the sample apps that a typical startup can wring out of its community with a developer contest.