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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Delivers Keynote on Federal Data at NTIS-Hosted Forum


On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross delivered opening remarks at a public data forum hosted by the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) to explore how the federal government can be more effective in its data management and delivery of public services. The event also featured presentations by federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Also in attendance were representatives from NTIS’s Joint Venture Partners, a group of small and large companies, nonprofits, and research groups selected through a merit-based process to work with NTIS on groundbreaking data projects conducted for and funded by federal agencies. 

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Avi, and to NTIS for hosting today’s forum focused on improving data and service delivery. I would like to welcome our joint venture partners, our stakeholders from federal departments and agencies, and our data cabinet members, who are all strong advocates for technical innovation across the government.

The Commerce Department collects, stores, and analyzes a wealth of information, including data on the Nation’s economy, population, and environment. These data go to the core of the Department’s mission. As ‘‘America’s Data Agency,’’ the Department of Commerce is using its data to spur innovation inside and outside the Federal Government and promote greater prosperity across the country.

Businesses use the Department’s data to make investment and hiring decisions. State and local governments mine the Department’s data to warn of coming danger, position first-responders, and construct high-tech classrooms. The Federal Government uses Commerce data to allocate funds and to make critical decisions on fiscal and monetary policy.

The potential economic value of Federal Government data is significant. The Decennial Census and American Community Survey data alone guides $400 billion in federal spending annually. Few outsiders know the extent of Commerce’s or other Federal Government data sets, and even fewer know how to build innovative, useful tools from them.

When Commerce data is connected with other Federal data, it can strengthen our economy and create better policy. This knowledge can help maximize the potential of the Internet, expand broadband capacity, enhance cybersecurity, and deliver improved public services. But technical innovation is often easier said than done.

Commerce and many agencies need to do a better job disseminating their data so that it can be used by the private sector. This is not just a technical issue. In my short time in Washington, I have discovered that government, compared to the private sector, is far more process oriented than results oriented. Existing federal processes and procedures often impede the utilization of technology could make Government more efficient and effective.

It is clear we need new business models to work with the private sector, facilitate rapid innovation, and deliver better value to our citizens. To that end, we are moving forward with the President’s Management Agenda to improve the timeliness, accuracy, breadth and depth of our data output.

This brings me to the role of NTIS and their Joint Venture Authority. NTIS is uniquely positioned to help Federal agencies leverage their data resources to drive operational excellence. This will allow the federal government to improve services and outcomes.

Joint venture partners, who were competitively selected in October 2016 to work with NTIS, will rapidly analyze, define, and address federal data challenges. By leveraging partners’ expertise, NTIS will create unique platforms to access, analyze, and use data; NTIS will combine and use data in new ways to enable innovative products and services, and to deliver better data to businesses, communities, and citizens.

Today, you will hear from speakers from the FDA, HHS, and Commerce bureaus highlighting how government data can help deliver positive outcomes. I know that many of you represent agencies with unique missions, but as you’ll see today, we all share a common vision to deliver better services – internally and externally. We have a tremendous amount of technical expertise gathered here.

And so we invite you to learn, share, and explore the possibilities of innovating government data. Together we can improve operational efficiency and serve the American public more effectively.

Thank you for joining us here at Commerce and I hope you have a constructive meeting.