Entries in gov 2.0 (5)


The U.S. Patent Office

My recent praise of the U.S. Patent Office for its forward-thinking technology partnership with Google was perhaps premature. Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budge commented today that while "the Patent Office receives more than 80 percent of patent applications electronically...these applications are then manually printed out, re-scanned, and entered into an outdated case management system. The average processing time for a patent is roughly three years."

Here is an interesting statistic: only one of the top 10 government IT contractors was founded after the 1960, and that is Dell, who provides the computers, not the software.


Australian government crowdsources its website photos; artists up in arms

Fighting a losing battle against the rise of sites like U.S. startups 99Designs and Genius Rocket, the No!Spec movement has found some sympathizers internationally. Australian artists are railing against the "worrying precedent" potentially set by their government's new effort to solicit photography contributions from average citizens as part of their campaign to revitalize their tourism marketing.

Nothing Like Australia, the new tourism site features photos sent in from around the country to help would-be tourists get a better sense of the real Australia that they can experience. Professional photographers, meanwhile, are upset that the government is willing to use free photos rather than relying on professional photos, saying,

Refusing to license these photographic works in an appropriate way sends a message that it (government) does not value creative work in the same way as it values other economic assets.

I've been sympathetic to some of the NoSpec! critiques, notably the winner-takes-all approach that encourages quantity over quality design. But the Australian artist response is a bit outrageous: the Australian tourism site is pretty great (better than any comparable city or country tourism campaign that I've seen before) and its strength is surely attibutable to the diversity of the photos submitted by average Australians depicting their way of life (rather than say, perfectly composed sunset and mountain photos typical to such campaigns).

Designers: you are right to demand that your work is properly valued, but pick your battles. In seeking to gain a taste of the diversity of Australia, the crowd of amateurs is more valuable.


USPTO and Google partner on opening patent and trademark data

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) faces a major challenge: an overload of patent applications (including sinister patent trolls) and far too few analysts to evaluate them. The quantity problem is compounded by difficulty of searching for existing patents and prior art that might discourage additional applications. The result is absurd wait times for would-be patent holders, lots of mockable patent granting decisions, and an overall lack of transparency of the patent process to the public.

But USPTO lately deserves more credit. Nearly a year ago to the day, I wrote about Peer-to-Patent, an innovative effort to open up the difficult and time-consuming task of researching prior art to the scientific and technical communities who possess the subject matter expertise to quickly evaluate patent applications. It was an early #gov20 success and its creator, Beth Noveck, was soon plucked from her job in academia to become the United States Deputy CTO for Open Government.

Today, Google announced another step forward. The USPTO is partnering with Google to bring 10 terabytes of patent and trademark data to the web for easy download. Analysts now have the data necessary to perform exciting trends analysis and otherwise parse the information to demystify patent granting. This must be a costly endeavor and I applaud USPTO for letting Google bear the costs. It's not often that a government agency so fully relinquishes control of its data for public consumption and this is a major #gov20 win.


Department of Defense Open Government Plan Embracing Good Ideas (first step at least)

Today the White House announced that all US government departments and agencies would be releasing their Open Government Plans to comply with the President's Open Government Initiative.

I clicked immediately to the Department of Defense page, expecting to be disappointed. When EVERY agency receives a green rating, as seen here, surely the bar is set too low. But I was pleasantly surprised: the DoD plan at least has 3 good ideas, suggested by users, that it has committed to implementing:

Click to read more ...


Sensorpedia connects sensor data through web 2.0 platform

Counting down to Tap the Collective, the collective intelligence event we are co-sponsoring with Inkling Markets next week, 9/2 in Washington, DC, we're going to profile the great CI projects that will be featured at the event.


Mark Drapeau wrote yesterday in the Federal Times,

"The proliferation of social software in society at large has important ramifications for U.S. national security. Governments that harness its potential can interact better with citizens, anticipate emerging issues, and tackle tough internal problems."

A great example of leveraging social software for improved homeland defense is Sensorpedia, a project at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Sensorpedia connects sensors composed of various standards through a Wikipedia-like platform with three important distinctions: links to near-real-time, streaming data; support of  interactive mashups; and restriction of authorship to approved personnel. Nearly all types of sensors are targeted for inclusion: smoke detectors, intrusion alarms, weather sensors, video cameras, cell phones, global positioning systems, seismic sensors, acoustic sensors, chemical sensors, radiological sensors, pressure gauges, medical instrumentation, telemetry systems, home security systems and alarms.

The richness of the data connected from the sensors together could give powerful early warning of disasters, improving our nation's preparedness, security and emergency response. Currently, this sensor data is disparate, reported to diverse entities or not reported at all, forming an incomplete picture of the environment. With Sensorpedia, Local, state, and federal public safety officials, intelligence analysts and planners, and emergency response workers can tap into centralized sensor information to better connect the dots and inform their planning and decisionmaking.

We're thrilled to hear developer David Resseguie from Oak Ridge National Laboratory give us a first hand discussion of Sensorpedia -- including Q&A where I can bring up my privacy concerns -- next week.

Flickr credit : Admit One