U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Opening Remarks at Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC) Meeting


Friday, October 28, 2016

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered opening remarks at the Commerce Data Advisory Council (CDAC) meeting. This was the fifth and final meeting of CDAC of the Obama administration, during which Secretary Pritzker received recommendations on data management practices, external uses of Department of Commerce data, and open data standards.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker reflected on the ways in which the Commerce Department has worked to make federal data more accessible, including through the launch of the Commerce Data Service, the Commerce Data Academy and the Commerce Data Usability Project. In addition, the Secretary noted the value of CDAC’s past recommendations and how they have played an integral role in making Commerce data more widely usable.

In closing, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the importance of continuing to make Commerce data accessible by institutionalizing CDAC efforts. Through effective institutionalization, Secretary Pritzker pointed out that the efforts of CDAC will persist long after the end of the Administration.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, and welcome to the fifth meeting of the Commerce Data Advisory Council. It is hard to believe that it has already been 18 months since we met for the first time. In just a year and a half, CDAC has proven to be an indispensable partner in advancing the Commerce Department’s open data efforts. As top experts from across the public, private, and non-profit sectors, your ideas have helped make stronger data collection and dissemination part of our Department’s DNA– now and in the years to come. I want to thank each of you for your service.

As you know, this Administration has been committed to open data since day one. On his first full day in office, President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative, ordering all federal agencies to make data as easily accessible and available as possible. When I became Secretary, I was so astounded by the reach and depth of the information collected and created at Commerce each day. Yesterday, I saw a live demo of a tool that Socrata built that uses Census data to visualize the number of people who have health insurance in each county in the United States. This takes a previously inaccessible dataset from the Census Bureau and transforms it into actionable insights that policymakers, advocates, and affordable insurance companies can use to improve services. To lead the charge in opening up even more of this data, we made data one of five strategic policy pillars in our Department-wide “Open for Business” Agenda. We also established our own Chief Data Officer and Chief Data Scientist positions and brought in Ian Kalin and Jeff Chen.

Over the last year, we have launched:

• The Commerce Data Service, our own internal incubator focused on building world-class software products and digital tools to maximize the value of our data across our 12 bureaus; 

• The Commerce Data Academy to train our employees on data skills; 

• And the Commerce Data Usability Project to make our data more accessible, usable, and valuable to the public.

We have also challenged the most talented in the digital world to mine our data and come up with innovative uses for it, which they are doing through initiatives like the CitySDK project. CitySDK is empowering journalists, programmers, students and businesses to explore what Commerce data reveals about their own communities. For example, at our recent Washington hackathon, one participant used this tool to investigate what happens to local schools when neighborhoods gentrify. Another explored why people take advantage of early voting, so we can improve our election process.

In just eight months, we have built a robust open-data infrastructure through partnerships across government and the private sector. And much of our progress has been driven by CDAC’s recommendations. You recommended that we dramatically expand access to raw data. Let me give you an example of how we are doing so.

Recently, the Bureau of Economic Analysis launched its own open-source library for GDP and other key economic figures using the statistical programming language “R.” This new “beaR Library,” allows economists, data scientists, and academics to obtain, combine, and analyze information from multiple datasets more efficiently.

You also recommended that we make Commerce data more useable. By leading the Opportunity Project, Commerce is bringing federal agencies, local governments, and businesses like Zillow and Redfin together to integrate open data sets and create tools that increase economic mobility in our communities. For example, in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, the Opportunity Project is providing digital tools that enable Americans to find information about schools, social services, and job opportunities.

You recommended that we make Commerce data more accessible. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been a leader in this regard by making its 225 years of data easier to access and explore through its innovative Developer Hub and its latest project called PatentView.

You also recommended that we make data part of every bureau’s institutional muscle memory. And we’re making real progress. Today you will hear about the Search String Analysis product enables our patent examiners to use a more powerful, Google-like search tool. This will help us ensure that the patents we award go to inventors and innovators who submit truly groundbreaking designs and ideas. You will also learn about how the Economic Development Administration’s new Grants Viewer is helping grant managers better visualize where our federal grant dollars are going and their impact on our communities.

These projects are just a few examples of YOU have helped the Commerce Department dramatically modernize and expand access to our data. Institutionalizing CDAC will ensure these innovative efforts continue on well after the end of this Administration. Today, we will ask you to consider how CDAC could be strengthened going forward.

• What skillsets should we be looking for when considering applicants? 

• How can we make the best use of your talents and experience?

• What challenges remain and how we should address these issues?

We must remain focused on the future and need your help to build on the strong foundation we have built together.

Our datasets are rich sources of economic, demographic, and scientific intelligence. But big data has little value unless we make it accessible and usable for our businesses, our entrepreneurs, and our people. With your help, we have brought the public and private sectors together to develop innovative applications of our data that will benefit our economy for years to come. We have moved closer to our shared goal of making “open data” a centerpiece of our dynamic economy. And we have helped ensure that our data meets its full potential. Thank you all for your service, for your leadership, and for serving as strong partners in unlocking our data for the good of our economy, our businesses, and our people.

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Last updated: 2016-10-31 14:20

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