Obama hopes open data, manufacturing innovation institutes will create jobs

President Barack Obama’s jobs agenda is going nowhere in Congress, so he’s taking steps on his own to boost the economy by opening more government data to entrepreneurs and starting new manufacturing innovation institutes.


Today the president issued an executive order that requires that data generated by government agencies be made available to the public in open, machine-readable formats when information systems are replaced or modernized. The White House hopes that entrepreneurs will use this data for new applications, just like what happened decades ago when weather data and the Global Positioning System was made accessible to the public.


People looking to buy a house, for example, could quickly find crime statistics and energy usage data for the neighborhood, as well as how many organic farms there are within 25 miles, said Steven VanRoekel, the chief information officer for the U.S.

“We sit on a treasure trove of data inside the government,” VanRoekel said.

Most of it, however, is “locked up” in paper files and proprietary computer systems, he said.

The executive order requires agencies to open up this data — while protecting individual privacy and national security — to the public in easy-to-find and easy-to-use ways. The administration already has made more government data available in some areas, such as energy and health care. On Tuesday, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a list of what more than 3,000 hospitals charge for common inpatient procedures.


TechAmerica, a trade association representing the U.S. technology industry, praised the Obama administration’s open data initiative.

“Access to the monumental amount of government data will fuel untold numbers of new innovative ideas in this country,” said Kevin Richards, TechAmerica’s senior vice president of federal government affairs. “By making open data the default policy of the entire federal government instead of discretionary, President Obama has handed the U.S. technology industry a key to expand our global leadership in this era of Big Data.”

The Obama administration also announced plans to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes this year, even though Congress hasn’t appropriated any money for this initiative. The president requested $1 billion to fund 15 of these institutes.


These regional hubs will bring together businesses, universities, community colleges and federal agencies to invest in developing new products and manufacturing processes.

They would be modeled after the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a pilot program in Youngstown, Ohio, that launched last year.

The Department of Defense will lead two of the new institutes, one focused on design manufacturing and design innovation, and the other focused on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing. The Department of Energy will lead an institute focused on next-generation power electronics manufacturing.

Public-private teams from areas around the country will compete to host these institutes, and federal funds will have to be matched by businesses and state and local governments.


The federal government will spend $200 million on the three new institutes. The money will come from spending cuts in lower-priority programs, said Gene Sperling, director of Obama’s National Economic Council.

Manufacturing is worth this investment because it “punches above its weight economically,” Sperling said. Manufacturers are responsible for most of America’s patents, research and development, and exports, he said.

“This is about retaining our edge in manufacturing innovation and ensuring that American workers and business can out-compete and out-innovate the rest of the world,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.


Source : Kent Hoover | Washington Bureau Chief

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