Commerce to pilot big data technology

The Commerce Department is assessing new and emerging storage technologies, and analytical tools, to improve how it makes terabytes of data accessible to the public. Steve Cooper, the Commerce chief information officer, said during an exclusive Federal News Radio online chat Thursday that the agency needs a better approach to handle its big data problem. “We hope to begin piloting some of what we’ve found re: new technology later this year,” Cooper wrote during the chat. Register below to view an archived version of the discussion.

Courtesy of Commerce

Census is leading one such effort already underway to test out a mapping tool to better display Census data. Commerce is putting a lot of emphasis behind data management and access. It’s currently searching for a chief data officer (CDO). Cooper said that person will work as a direct report to Commerce Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews. “We did this deliberately because we intend our CDO to be more externally focused, and to interact with our stakeholders and users of our data, while the CIO can then focus on technology and tools, like APIs, to more effectively support our data initiatives,” Cooper said. In the meantime, Commerce created a Data Advisory Council and is using the responses to several requests for information in 2014 to map out its data-centric future. In addition to data management, Cooper said his focus on shared services will expand not just to commodity infrastructure services, but also to software. “For example, we’re working on the renewal of our Microsoft licensing agreement, focused on making it departmentwide, rather than bureau-by-bureau,” he said. “Likewise, we’re taking a look at vendors where we spend several millions of dollars, like Oracle, Adobe, IBM and Symantec. Where we can, we’ll move to departmentwide licensing agreements rather than bureaus negotiating their own agreement.” As part of his shared services effort, Commerce is working with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security and Treasury. He said the goal is to “gain from the experience and expertise they have and partner with them in areas like data, environmental issues and technology.” Cooper said the first solicitation around shared services should go to industry later this year. He said part of his office’s analysis of options will include looking at Uncle Sam’s List, which the Office of Management and Budget put together in 2013 as a way to make the discovery of IT shared service areas, providers and related existing contract vehicles easier. “We want to focus on delivery of mission services and mission support. Therefore, we view moving to shared services as enabling greater focus on mission delivery from the CIO community,” he said. “We do believe, based on our business case estimates, that we will achieve cost savings over time.” Register to view an archive of the entire online chat using the form below. During the chat, Cooper also discussed FedRAMP as well as upcoming procurements to be on the lookout for in the near future. Readers are also invited to listen to Cooper’s interview on Federal News Radio’s Ask the CIO radio show.


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Live Blog Ask the CIO with Commerce’s Steve Cooper