Starting using data better: Kundra

Journalists need to take advantage of the vast array of information that the U.S. gov’t is already making available.

That was the message Vivek Kundra, the first federal Chief Information Officer in the Obama administration, brought to the Online News Association conference in Boston this morning.

On, there is information on a huge range of government activity but there hasn’t been a big pickup, he said. Journalists need to adapt themselves to tell the stories buried in digital data. Some news organizations are innovating, he added. But others are ignoring change at their peril.

“There is a battle for the soul of the future of journalism,” he said. “Do you want to be Amazon or Barnes and Noble?”

The data miners will be the ones telling some of the best stories, he said. He added that reporters need to access the incredible volume of information governments collect about everyday life.

“If you look at what ‘s happening in the world today, everything is being instrumented” — from the times buses are running to wait times in hospitals, he said.

An emerging role for journalists is taking this data and separating noise from signal.

He said in his work in the Obama government, he tried to push departments to put their information in the cloud.  He identified about US$20 billion in services that could move to cloud but  he faced tough resistance from the “old guard,” which were protective of existing — hidden from the public — data storage and management practices.

Governments, he said, should embrace private cloud services providers for data because it’s cheaper and government can’t compete for the expertise of top-notch security engineers.





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