Todd Park for President: Open Data for the Public Good

Todd Park for President

Truthfully, there is little attention paid to that which the US Federal Government gets right. News coverage continually conflates government and politics. Recently they have turned into sounding boards for self-interested groups which unfairly malign public entities and public employees and seek to dismantle all public services from education to environmental protection to parks management. Nearly zero airtime is given to those in the US Government who get it right.

That is why I’d like to introduce my new government hero, Todd Park. Todd is Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services and should be our next head of state.

Todd, through funding under the Affordable Health Care Act, is responsible for helping the HHS leadership “harness the power of data, technology, and innovation to improve the health and welfare of the nation.” Todd vision is simple. Several departments at all levels of government routinely collect data. As an example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects weather data from around the world. This data is not only essential for determining whether you should carry an umbrella to work tomorrow, but also essential to local planners, disaster preparedness, aviation and military planning. NOAA took the extra step of not only making the data available internally, but also has posted all of it on their website for use by anyone at no cost. That’s right, NOAA data is completely free.

The private sector, not willing to let an opportunity to make a buck pass, has siezed the opportunity to capitalize on this tax payer funded system to produce such heavyweights as The Weather Channel, weather.com, AccuWeather and your local news station.

Todd believes that the same model can be applied to the wealth of public health and medical data that the government collects anyway. He, while protecting the privacy of individuals, approaches businesses to develop ways to create new and innovative ways to create profitable opportunities for the private sector, putting people to work AND improving the public health in the process.

He doesn’t just want to offer it to them, he also wants to offer it to the rest of us as well, and wants to make sure that the data is absolutely free. This strategy not only benefits nerdy researchers like myself, but also creates entrepreneurial opportunities for anybody with a good, moneymaking idea.

Todd believes in what he does, and his successes have already been documented. On top of that, he’s an amazing speaker, perpperiong his impassioned sell of government public health data with a litany of Star Wars references. America needs to hear people like Todd Park speak, if only to get them excited about the things that government does right.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

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