Vivek Wadhwa discussed the death of open government

Jun 22, 2011

Do you think Vivek Wadhwa hit the nail on the head or completely missed the mark in his column The coming death of open government? Don't miss this chance to live chat with Wadhwa! Ask any unanswered questions you have about his column and tell him your opinion on if the death of open government is really coming.

Hello everyone, great chatting with you. 

Who is/are the new people in charge of the initiative and are they potentially as enthusiastic as the champion they are succeeding? Granted, a champion has resigned but do you think it may be possible there may be others who will pick up the torch and continue the efforts?

The White House people mentioned several names to me. I wasn't blown away with the list. I suspect that they need to find a real successor to Vivek. This made me more nervous about

What do we "little people" do when someone with this guy's talent resigns because he is doing such a great job saving taxpayer's billions and the Congress or Executive branch cuts his budget from $30+billion to $8+billion? Please don't tell me to contact my senator/congressperson.  You and I both know that's futile.  I just can't stand hearing about this type of activity in Washington. How does one help to keep a voice like this from being silenced?

The sad thing is that we were talking about $35 million--when billions could be saved. I am as unhappy about this as you are as you can judge by the pessimistic tone of my article. 

In absence of a grand national evangelist, do you feel a grassroots movement could work instead, stemming from within individual agencies and offices?

Yes, that is a great question and you've hit the nail on the head as to how to fix this problem. Entrepreneurs need to chip in and solve the governments--and society's problems. 


The challenge is that unless the Government provides the data, there is little that can be done. That's why it starts with Uncle Sam and we need to keep up the pressure. 

Could the answer be that new startups must emerge to independently capture and leverage the data sets that the government keeps control of? Facebook is the first example of how a startup can efficiently and accurately collect specific pieces of information. LinkedIn is another example. Won't it just be a matter of time before the private sector solves addresses these issues on their own?

Yes, the answer is startups. But the Government needs to provide the public the data that it owns. President Obama has said as much. We need to hold him to his word.

Hello Vivek, Hello All, regards from Dresden, Germany, where the issue of open government is idling for quite some (as there is no clear path in sight). What has led to assumed closing down this great initiative in the U.S.? Or is it just emerging under another name?

The problem is that the people making the funding decisions--the political leaders, don't understand the importance and value of this program. That is why they cut funding. We should be putting all the effort we can into this, so that entrepreneurs can do their magic and build innovative solutions.

Would you suggest that entities/corporates outside the government could take upon them to reinstate this initiative. Also how should corporate react to this. Shouldnt they be lobbying for this. Buy then if companies like Square would take Larry Summers of the world on their board then what to say!

Unless Government departments make the data available, no outside entity can do anything. Vivek Kundra was doing all the right things. Once the data is available. then the private sector can take over--but not until then. 

With this type of delay on a federal level, is the imperative now on cities and states to make this data public, to move innovation forward? Given their fiscal situations, is their still opportunity for them to lead in this field?

Here is the problem: the people who own the legacy systems often fear for their jobs if they give their data away. What happens when entrepreneurs from all over the world build systems and software that are a hundred times better than the junk they are maintaining and cost a fraction to run--that is the fear.

So the pressure has to come top down from our political leaders, and bottoms up from the electorate. We are wasting tens of billions of dollars at the city and state level.

If president Obama has said that the government data must be opened, can't we and the entrepreneurs just demand the opening of the data from whoever is maintaining it, without a big whip at the top overseeing all this?

That's a great question. And that is what Vivek Kundra was focused on. With him gone, who is going to lead this charge for us? In short, the data opening can't be a bottoms up effort, it has to be top down, because government employees control access to all this. 


The President needs to follow up his words with action--make his administrators do it, fund the websites, etc. 


Please suggest some concrete reforms to improve the green card process for advanced degree professionals who pursue startups.

That is a totally different topic from OpenGov, but I have written extensively about this. You can find my articles and research on my website.

Thank you everyone for participating. This was fun, and I hope to do more or these. Hope I get some more difficult questions next time. This was much too easy :)

In This Chat
Vivek Wadhwa
Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa is a Visiting Scholar, School of Information, UC-Berkeley; Director of Research, Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, and Exec in Residence, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University; Senior Research Associate, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Halle Institute of Global Learning, Emory University; and faculty member and advisor at Singularity University. He helps students prepare for the real world; lectures in class; and leads groundbreaking research projects. He is also an advisor to several startup companies, a columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and writes occasionally for several international publications. Prior to joining academia in 2005, Wadhwa founded two software companies.
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