U.S.-India Joint Commission Touts Open Government Platform

Software will be easy access point for all government data.

Government representatives from the United States and India had high praise for the two countries’ Open Government Platform partnership at Monday’s second joint commission meeting on science and technology cooperation between the nations.

“It has truly been awesome and it has truly been inspiring, and those are words I don’t use very often,” White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Chris Vein said during the introductory remarks.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake was on hand to praise the collaboration as well, calling it “a wonderful example of how our two great democracies have leveraged our two countries’ cooperation on innovation and on technology to advance democracy and to advance the lives of our people.”

Over the course of the 45-minute presentation at the State Department other details emerged about the project beyond the assertion that it was great.

When the two nations in December 2011 came up with the idea for the open-source Open Government Platform that would serve as a one-stop resource for citizens to find all public data from the two countries -- which they deemed Data.gov in a box -- their goal was to complete the project within six months. An accompanying press release touts that the beta version of the software is already available for testing, and that pilot programs began in May, with global availability for the platform targeted for late 2012.

One of the long-term goals for the project is for open-source developers to build applications that allow the public to more easily disseminate and use government data in formats like maps and charts. The countries are bringing on global open-source developers like the World Wide Web Consortium, the World Bank and portal software CKAN.

As one result of the project initiative, according to Data.gov program director Marion Royal, total government datasets available for open-source use jumped from 47 in May 2009 to 445,162 in May 2012.

One of the hopes of the Open Government Platform, according to Sam Pitroda, assistant to the Indian Prime Minister, is to “radicalize democracies all over the world” through free open-source access.

Speakers said the collaboration benefited from the time difference between the two countries since Indian developers were able to work while the Americans slept and vice versa.

“No one can accuse the governments of not learning from the best practices of the private sector,” India Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Jawed Ashraf said, pointing to how the two teams “have worked seamlessly across time and space” to develop the platform.