White House Expands Employment, Housing Data Effort

Federal CTO Megan Smith

Federal CTO Megan Smith NASA

Fitbit, LinkedIn and other companies are collaborating on the Opportunity Project.

With 14 weeks left in this administration, the White House is ramping up its effort to link citizens to nearby jobs, housing and resources.

The Opportunity Project is a catch-all program inviting outside groups to create apps using government data that would "increase access to opportunity," and economic mobility, including jobs or training programs. On Thursday, the White House announced 29 new digital tools for citizens built as part of this public-private partnership, some of which were created by companies including Fitbit and LinkedIn.

The White House unveiled the program in the spring, but the Commerce Department will now take the lead on it, according to a White House announcement.

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"Instead of our agencies having to make websites themselves" to help citizens achieve economic mobility, training and emotional stability, outside collaborators can "add an extra toolset" to the Opportunity Project's collection of applications, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said during a White House event Thursday.

For instance, Fitbit built an application that "helps policymakers understand the relationship between average activity and widespread health challenges in every state," by aggregating activity data from 10 million users with Centers for Disease Control data on diabetes, obesity and heart disease, according to the White House blog post. LinkedIn has a "Training Finder” using Labor Department data to find education and training that would "lead to in-demand careers for job seekers."

Airbnb has an "Opportunity Calculator" using Housing and Urban Development rental data to help people figure out "opportunities to cover housing costs by renting an extra room in their home."