White House unleashes ‘innovation mojo’ of broadband providers, developers


U.S. Ignite program will produce apps in medicine, clean energy and public safety.

President Obama signed an executive order Thursday aimed at linking high-speed broadband Internet providers and application developers with communities to design and test new applications in medicine, engineering and other fields.

The idea behind the U.S. Ignite program is to use the broadband communities as test beds to develop applications that eventually can be scaled nationwide, according to a White House blog post.

During a launch event, researchers at Case Western Reserve University demonstrated a broadband-based simulated surgical theater, which they said could eventually be used at broadband-equipped medical schools across the country.

The U.S. Ignite program is designed to “unlock the power of American innovation mojo,” federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said during the event.

Another portion of the executive order requires federal agencies to take a uniform approach to approving broadband building projects along federal properties and roadways, which the White House said could make broadband construction up to 90 percent cheaper.

Broadband can run up to 100 times faster than the current Internet, allowing for much more complex operations. The U.S. Ignite partnership includes more than 25 cities, multiple corporations and nonprofits, and more than 60 research universities, the White House said.

Applications developed through the program will focus on six key areas, according to a fact sheet: education and workforce development, advanced manufacturing, health, transportation, public safety, and clean energy.

The National Science Foundation, the lead federal agency on the U.S. Ignite project, has committed to spending $20 million to support infrastructure building and application development, the fact sheet said. The investment is an outgrowth of NSF’s Global Environment for Networking Innovations, or GENI, project, which focused on bringing high-speed Internet to university researchers.

“By bringing software developers and engineers from government and industry together with representatives from communities, schools, hospitals and other institutions that will benefit from faster and more agile broadband options, the partnership aims to speed up and increase the development of applications for advanced manufacturing, medical monitoring, emergency preparedness, and a host of other services,” the White House said.

Thursday’s executive order also requires agencies to post federal properties that could be used for broadband deployment on their websites and to track regional broadband deployment projects on the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard.

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