Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra challenged state CIOs to work more innovatively and collaboratively -- and he ticked off a laundry list of issues where state IT professionals will play a key role in President Barack Obama's innovation strategy.
Speaking Wednesday, Oct. 28 at a meeting of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in Austin, Texas, Chopra said state and local technology executives should be involved in planning for health information exchanges, smart grids and broadband initiatives. They also should be helping to spur entrepreneurship and ensure that schools can continue to teach in the event of a flu pandemic.
"This is all about a new performance contract," he said. "The president has elevated technology and innovation into the fabric of how we run the government. We have extended an olive branch to state and local government. We want to collaborate."
Chopra urged CIOs to join the process of creating standards for emerging smart grid and electronic health records initiatives. He said the Health IT Standards Committee within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services planned to hold a public hearing on the subject Thursday, Oct. 29, and would continue seeking public input for two weeks through an online forum.
"We want to exchange data across all health-care actors, and it needs to be secure and frictionless. CIOs need to be involved in writing these standards," Chopra said. "Your health department is getting data from hospitals -- what standard do they use? What format do they get that data in? Is the list of doctors in your state in machine-readable format?
"State CIOs have a meaningful role to play in the health IT debate. Please give me your input on the standard before we lock it down," he added.
Chopra's message was similar on smart grids. He said CIOs should be working with public utilities to ensure that data feeds from smart electricity meters and appliances are publicly available and in forms that encourage the creation of innovative new applications.
"Today, could someone use your data to build an application that tells me when to do my laundry at an off-peak time? Is the data available for someone to build that app?" he said. "How will that data be available, and what rights do citizens have now to use that data?"
More broadly, he said state and local CIOs should be scouring their operations for data feeds that can be made publicly available to spur development of innovative new software and other entrepreneurial activity.
States and localities also have a crucial role to play in the development of a national broadband strategy. Chopra urged CIOs to give their ideas to the FCC, which is set to release a national broadband plan in February.
Broadband Internet access can help advance almost any major state and local policy objective, he said. "I promise, if you listen to your governor's priorities, there's a broadband play there -- there has to be. Make sure your voices are heard, and help use paint a vision for what broadband means to our communities."
State IT professionals can be particularly helpful in creating standard formats for data used to create broadband coverage maps.
"Many of you are starting to win grants for broadband mapping. There are numerous ways in which to execute this. Do we have a common agreement on data format? Do we want to have 50 different ways to report that data?" he said. "Let's agree to
some mechanism. If you want to pursue that, you have a friend in the administration."
Finally, Chopra said continuity of learning recommendations released by the U.S. Department of Education for the 2009-2010 school year have implications for state CIOs.
The recommendations give schools advice on how to continue instruction even if students must be out of classrooms for weeks due to a flu pandemic. Among the proposals are making course materials available online and conducting live class meetings via conference calls or webinars.
CIOs should look for innovative ways to quickly share their state's existing collaboration and remote meeting solutions with school districts, Chopra said.
"Could you flip a switch and make your teleconferencing software available to schools?" he asked. "Have you set up the storefront so that those tools are available without a complicated procurement process?"