Beth Noveck on connecting the academy to open government R&D

Earlier this week, the White House convened an open government research and development summit at the National Archives. Columbia statistics professor Victoria Stodden captures some key themes from it at her blog, including smart disclosure of government data and open government at the VA. Stodden also documented the framing questions that federal CTO Aneesh Chopra asked for help answered from the academic community:

1. big data: how strengthen capacity to understand massive data?
2. new products: what constitutes high value data?
3. open platforms: what are the policy implications of enabling 3rd party apps?
4. international collaboration: what models translate to strengthen democracy internationally?
5. digital norms: what works and what doesn’t work in public engagement?

In the video below, former White House deputy CTO for open government, Beth Noveck, reflected on what the outcomes and results from the open government R&D summit at the end of the second day. If you’re interested in a report from one of the organizers, you’d be hard pressed to do any better.

The end of the beginning for open government?

The open government R&D summit has since come under criticism from one of its attendees, Expert Labs’ director of engagement Clay Johnson, for being formulaic, “self congratulatory” and not tackling the hard problems that face the country. He challenged the community to do better:

These events need to solicit public feedback from communities and organizations and we need to start telling the stories of Citizen X asked for Y to happen, we thought about it, produced it and the outcome was Z. This isn’t to say that these events aren’t helpful. It’s good to get the open government crowd together in the same room every once and awhile. But knowing the talents and brilliant minds in the room, and the energy that’s been put behind the Open Government Directive, I know we’re not tackling the problems that we could.

Noveck responded to his critique in a comment where she observed that “Hackathons don’t substitute for inviting researchers — who have never been addressed — to start studying what’s working and what’s not in order to free up people like you (and I hope me, too) to innovate and try great new experiments and to inform our work. But it’s not enough to have just the academics without the practitioners and vice versa.”

Justin Grimes, a Ph.D student who has been engaged in research in this space, was reflective after reading Johnson’s critique. “In the past few years, I’ve seen far more open gov events geared towards citizens, [developers], & industry than toward academics,” he tweeted. “Open gov is a new topic in academia; few people even know it’s out there; lot of potential there but we need more outreach. [The] purpose was to get more academics involved in conversation. Basically, government saying ‘Hey, look at our problems. Do research. Help us.'”

Johnson spoke with me earlier this year about what else he sees as the key trends of Gov 2.0 and open government, including transparency as infrastructure, smarter citizenship and better platforms. Given the focus he has put on doing, vs researching or, say, “blogging about it,” it will be interesting to see what comes out of Johnson and Expert Labs next.

Todd Park on unleashing the power of open data to improve health

What if open health data were to be harnessed to spur better healthcare decisions and catalyze the extension or creation of new businesses? That potential future exists now, in the present. Todd Park, chief technology officer of the Department of Heath and Human Services, has been working to unlock innovation through open health data for over a year now. On many levels, the effort is the best story in federal open data. Park tells it himself in the video below, recorded yesterday at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

Over at e-patients.net, Pew Internet researcher Susannah Fox asked how community organizations can tap into the health data and development trend that Park has been working hard to ignite. She shared several resources (including a few from this correspondent) and highlighted the teams who competed in a health developer challenge tour that culminated at the recent Health 2.0 conference.

Check out this article about HealthData.gov including footage of Park talking about the “health data eco-system” at the code-a-thon (and actually, the video also features local health hacker Alan Viars sitting there at the right).

Here are 3 blog posts about last year’s event, including mine:

Making Health Data Sing (Even If It’s A Familiar Song)

Community Health Data Initiative: vast amounts of health data, freed for innovators to mash up!

Making community health information as useful as weather data: Open health data from Health and Human Services is driving more than 20 new apps.

The next big event in this space on June 9 at the NIH. If you’re interested in what’s next for open health data, track this event closely.

Open government scrutinized before the House Oversight Committee

This morning, the Oversight Committee in the United States House of Representatives held a hearing on the Obama administration’s open government efforts. The “Transparency Through Technology: Evaluating Federal Open-Government Initiatives hearing was streamed live online at oversight.house.gov.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked his Twitter followers before the hearing a simple question “Have you tried to get facts on how gov’t spends your $ on USASpending.gov?” He received no answers.

The oversight committee did, however, hear extensive testimony from government IT executives and open government watchdogs. As Representative Issa probes how agencies balance their books, such insight will be crucial, particularly with respect to improving accountability mechanism and data. Poor data has been a reoccurring theme in these assessments over the years. Whether the federal government can effectively and pervasively apply open data principles appears itself to be open question.

The first half of the hearing featured testimony from Dr. Danny Harris, chief information officer for the Department of Education, Chris Smith, chief information officer for the Department of Agriculture, Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation.

Alice Lipowicz of Federal Computer Week tweeted out a few data points from the hearing.

  • A Sunlight Foundation audit found that the USDA spent $12.7B on school lunches but only reported $250,000 on USASpending.gov
  • According to Brito, “half of 3000 datasets on Data.gov are on EPA toxic releases, with only 200 to 300 datasets are on fed gov activity.” Lipowicz also tweeted that Brito testified that federal agencies need outside auditors and “ought to report ‘earnings’ similar to private sector.”
  • USDA CIO Chris Smith said that the agency did not report school lunch payments below $25,000 to USASpending.gov; will report in FY2012

In her testimony before the House committee on clearspending, Miller reiterated the position of the Sunlight Foundation that the efforts of the administration to make government spending data open, accurate and available have been insufficient, particularly when the data is wrong.

The Sunlight Foundation has been excited about the new promises of data transparency, but sometimes the results are nowhere near the accuracy and completeness necessary for the data to be useful for the public.

Sunlight’s Clearspending analysis found that nearly $1.3 trillion of federal spending as reported on USASpending.gov was inaccurate. While there have been some improvements, little to no progress has been made to address the fundamental flaws in the data quality. Correcting the very complicated system of federal reporting for government spending is an enormous task. It has to be done because without it there is no hope for accountability.

Miller made several recommendations to the committee to improve the situation, including:

  • unique identifiers for government contracts and grants
  • publicly available hierarchical identifiers for recipients to follow interconnected entities
  • timely bulk access to all data.

Her remarks ultimately reflect the assessment that she made at last year’s Gov 2.0 Summit, where she made it clear that open government remains in beta. Our interview is below:

Tracking the progress of the Open Government Directive requires better data, more auditors and improved performance metrics. That said, this looks like the year when many of the projects at agencies will move forward towards implementation.

Last month, the U.S. moved forward into the pilot phase of an open source model for health data systems as the fruits of the Direct Project came to Minnesota and Rhode Island. The Direct Project allows for the secure transmission of health care data over a network. Some observers have dubbed it the Health Internet, and the technology has the potential to save government hundreds of millions of dollars, along with supporting the growth of new electronic health records systems .Open source and open government have also come together to create OpenStack, an open cloud computing platform that’s a collaboration between NASA, Rackspace, Cisco and a growing group of partners.

It’s too early to judge the overall effort open government as ultimately a success or failure. That said, the administration clearly needs to do more. In 2011, the open question is whether “We the people” will use these new participatory platforms to help government work better.

Video of the hearing will be posted here when available. Testimony from today’s hearing is linked to PDFs below.

Dr. Danny Harris

Chris Smith

Jerry Brito

Ellen Miller

The Honorable Danny Werfel

Note: Video of the hearing was provided through the efforts of citizen archivist Carl Malamud at house.resource.org, the open government video website that he set up in collaboration with Speaker Boehner and Congressman Issa. While the open government efforts of the federal government have a long way to go, in this particular regard, a public-private collaboration is making the proceedings of the House Oversight committee available to the world online.

HHS launches Health.Data.gov

Last October, Todd Park, the chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) announced HealthData.gov at the HealthCamp in San Francisco. Today, Health.Data.gov went live. When the domain name propagates properly through the Internet, HealthData.gov will send online users directly to the new community at Data.gov.

Park blogged about HealthData.gov and the open health data initiative on Data.gov this morning.

“HealthData.gov is a one-stop resource for the growing ecosystem of innovators who are turning data into new applications, services, and insights that can help improve health,” he wrote.

The new open health data site includes community features and links to more than a thousand indicators at HealthIndicators.gov and a health apps showcase.

New apps like iTriage have the potential to turn open health data to better decisions and build new businesses. Speaking at the State Department’s open source conference last week, Park said that tens of thousands of citizens have now used the health data in iTriage to find community health centers.

Park has been working to make community health information as useful as weather data through the release of open health data from HSS. Today, the nation now can see more about what the tech community has come up since this spring, when the question of whether “there’s a healthcare app for that” was answered the first time. “Social value and economic value can go hand in hand,” he told a health IT summit in San Francisco.

Below, Park speaks more about what open health data could mean at last weekend’s health 2.0 code-a-thon in Washington, DC.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Here come the healthcare apps.

Pew: Disability or illness hinders many Americans from using the Internet

President Barack Obama talks with, from left, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., Cheryl Sensenbrenner, James Langevin, D-R.I., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in the Oval Office, July 26, 2010, prior to an event on the South Lawn commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with, from left, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., Cheryl Sensenbrenner, James Langevin, D-R.I., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in the Oval Office, July 26, 2010, prior to an event on the South Lawn commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project includes the sobering figure that potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans live with disabilities or illness that makes it harder or impossible for them to use the Internet. According to Pew, some two percent of American adults are unable to fully make use of one of the greatest platforms for collective action in history. ‘

The survey was based on a national survey of 3,001 U.S. adults in September 2010. Here are three other data points to consider:

  • 27% of American adults live with a disability that interferes with activities of daily living.
  • 54% of adults living with a disability use the internet, compared with 81% of adults who report none of the disabilities listed in the survey.
  • 41% of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69% of those without a disability.

“This is a correlation that we observed, not causation,” said Susannah Fox (@SusannahFox), associate director at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “We don’t know that it’s the disability that’s causing that difference, but we do know that it’s not just lower levels of education or income, or age, all of which tend to depress Internet access rates. It’s something else.”

This research should be considered in the context of an ongoing matter before the Department of Justice (DoJ): the modernization of the Americans with Disabilities Act. When the Act was first passed, the DoJ stated in the preamble to the original 1991 ADA regulations that those regulations should be interpreted to keep pace with developing technologies. (28 CFR part 36, app. B.)

Needless to say, the Internet has come a long way since 1991. The power of technology and equality came into sharp focus this year on the 20th anniversary of the ADA. Iif the United States government intends to go forward with creating online open government platforms for all the people, accessibility and access issues are part of that picture. The country will need ability maps and to consider how to balance the accessibility needs of all Americans as more civic engagement goes digital. Disability advocates agree that transparency without accessibility would be a poor version of Gov 2.0.

“The reality is that so much of what’s happening today in the world is online,” said Fox. “There’s a real difference between a someone in their 70s who doesn’t want to add the Internet to their life and someone in their 20s who can’t go online because of a disability.”

When the ADA was passed, Congress contemplated that the Department of Justice would apply the statute in a manner that evolved over time, and delegated authority to the Attorney General  of the United States to put forward regulations to carry out the Act´s broad mandate. How the Department of Justice does so is still a matter for debate.  The DoJ is considering extending the enforcement of the ADA to include websites operated by more entities, including the following list of 12 categories of “places of public accommodation” covered by the ADA from ADA.gov.

(1) An inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of the establishment as the residence of the proprietor;
(2) A restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;
(3) A motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
(4) An auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;
(5) A bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
(6) A laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;
(7) A terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;
(8) A museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;
(9) A park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;
(10) A nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;
(11) A day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and
(12) A gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.

The public comment period for the Department of Justice’s notice of rulemaking regarding this extension will end on Monday, January 24th. The questions being contemplated by the DoJ are straightforward and yet potentially significant, with respect to their effects upon businesses: Do they operate a website? If so, does that website also have to be accessible?

The considerations and trade offs involved in answering those questions are complex but important. For people for whom accessibility is more than a “nice to have” feature, however, those answers will be meaningful.

“It’s not just the group today that’s having trouble going online,” said Fox, ” it’s about how the conversation today contributes towards building towards the future.”

POSTSCRIPT: Audrey Watters, a staff writer at ReadWriteWeb, referenced this article in her post, “Pew Internet Study Points to Challenges Americans with Disabilities Have with Internet Access.” One of her readers, John Mill, replied to Watters on Twitter: “Thanks for posting that. This inspires me as I’m applying for an internship and need to talk about greatest challenge faced by students with disabilities and how I might do something about it.”

Mill said that “many things have actually gone backward” with regards to Web accessibility. “Facebook, for one. Probs with Captcha for another.” When reached for further comment, he tweeted more about the challenge of navigating the social Web as a blind man:

I’d say the single biggest issue is the rate of change on websites and in software apps. Our screen-readers are constantly playing catch-up, and soon as they do another update is released that breaks things! With regards to social networking, FB is difficult also, as they change regularly. New Twitter is all but [unusable], but enterprising blind devs have created a software program called Qwitter client, found at www.qwitter-client.net. Those are a few of my thoughts. Apparently I could write a book!

According to Mill, the new version of Twitter, set to be rolled out to all users this year, “causes screen-readers to become sluggish and unresponsive. Also hard to find where to write the new tweets.” With respect to Facebook, “I can’t really access the main site, largely because I’m not sure where anything is!” tweeted Mills. “The mobile site works well enough, for the most part. All those games and such are out, but I mostly use it to update statuses and message friends and family.”

US CTO Chopra on what’s next in tech: open government, spectrum policy, HIT, learning IT

“The single best thing we could do in open government is to get the American people engaged in the question of what high value data is,” said Aneesh Chopra, the first United States chief technology officer, speaking at this morning’s Politico “What’s Next in Tech” forum in Union Station. Video is below:

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

In an interview with Politico’s technology editor, Kim Hart, Chopra looked back at the lessons learned from his first two years on the job and ahead, appropriately, to what to expect in tech policy from the Obama administration. They covered a lot of ground, from open government successes to what’s next in Congress (hint: watch the push to open up spectrum for first responders) to supporting entrepreneurial growth.

Lessons learned

What were Chopra’s lessons learned? He offered up three examples.

First, with support from the President, Chopra said that they’ve been able to open up discussion and build trusted relationships across the federal government, which has been “critical” to improving the way technology could be used and the long term policy posture.

Second, with that support, he’s been surprised on seeing the pace of response become fast. There’s a “lesson on balance of getting long term balance, versus getting results in 90 days,” he said, referring to the turnaround on projects like HealthCare.gov.

Third, Chopra emphasized the role of “government as a convener,” where the administration can use its influence to bring people together to accomplish goals with technology without new regulations or legislation.

Working tech policy levers

What are the levers that the first US CTO has worked to try to galvanize action on the administration’s priorities?

First, a commitment to openness. From Manor, Texas, to inner cities, “people have found ways to tap into info in ways that helps them do something different,” said Chopra, speaking to the phenomenon of Gov 2.0 going local. “85 to 90% of that activity is happening in places we wouldn’t have imagined,” not gathering in Washington.

Second, Chopra cited the White House’s work towards “voluntary, consensus-driven standards,” noting that he was ” very proud of the work on NHIN Direct.”

Finally, Chopra noted that there’s some $150 billion spent on research and development every year, which offers a number of ways to push forward with innovation in priorities like healthcare IT, energy, smart grid or communications.

Making meaningful use modular

Given the new Congress coming in to Washington, Chopra’s description on the bipartisan agreement on tech policy from his time in Virginia under Republican leadership has to be more than a little strategic. He talked about “getting to the right answer,” referring back to an former manager, David Bradley, and his management strategy of “True North.”

That approach will be rested in the next Congress, on rulemaking. and in moving forward with the tech policy decisions. Outside of the healthcare bill that President Obama signed into law, which continues to meet with significant opposition in Congress, Chopra noted that “healthcare is signature part of President’s agenda,” specifically advanced by more than 20 billion dollars in Recovery Act spending on healthcare IT.

Chopra looked back at two decisions related to approaching technology policy a bit differently. “Rather than walking into Best Buy and buying software, we created more flexible standards for meaningful use,” he said. As a result, “entrepreneurs that never thought of themselves as EMR companies are entering the market.”

The decision to make meaningful use more modular was also significant, asserted Chopra. “We opened up the regulatory regime so you could certify each and every regulatory module.”

In aggregate, Chopra associated that R&D investment, work to convene conversations, open up data and create more flexible regulatory regimes with a better outcomes: venture capital investment in HIT going up by 39%, citing a statistic from the National Venture Capital Association.

Addressing the critics

Kim Hart brought up industry criticism of what the “first tech president” has delivered on, versus President Obama’s campaign promises. Halfway his term, the San Jose Mercury News reported this morning that on tech issues, Obama falls short of high expectations.

How did Chopra respond? He asked for more criticism, responding that you “must listen to people who are frustrated” and consider that much of the tech platform is in the space “where the plane is yet to land.” If you go through campaign promises, and look at executive ability to move the needle on different areas, Chopra asserted that the
biggest part of that – open government – has gone ahead. “It’s not ‘mom and apple pie perfect’,” he said, but they’re proud of delivering on 90 day deliverables like standards, or websites.

Part of the challenge of delivering on campaign promises is that budgetary or legislative action requires different stakeholders, observed Chopra, a reality that will become even more sharply defined in the next Congress. “The Recovery Act is a unique moment in time,” which, as he argued is “overwhelmingly the vehicle for campaign promises” in health IT and clean tech.

What’s next in United States technology policy?

First, it’s clear that Chopra and the Obama administration is thinking about online privacy, with the recently announced Internet privacy committee. There are open questions about how much portfolio, budget, subpoena power or other authority any new position would hold, but it’s an area to watch. Chopra said that he had met with Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and had found him supportive of privacy policy.

Chopra also met with Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is very supportive of increased government transparency through technology. Issa, a successful technology entrepreneur, is one of the most knowledgeable members of Congress when it comes to technology. Whatever comes out of his his legislative staff, or the new House Oversight committee, which he will chair, could represent a step forward for open government after the 2010 election.

Chopra also emphasized “modest but significant actions” that could improve the conditions for tech entrepreneurs in the United Stats, from open government data to regulatory action to smart grid or support for new learning technologies. On that count, Chopra offered up a “scoop” to Kim Hart, observing that the next area where he will focus on driving innovation will be into learning technologies, with more news coming at a Brookings Institute event in December.

The top opportunities that Chopra sees for entrepreneurs are in healthcare and energy, the former of which is already becoming hot with more healthcare apps provisioned with open healthcare data

“One policy lever is the role of public-private partnerships,” observed Chopra, highlighting the growth in STEM education, with over half a billion dollars in investment. “It’s not the money, it’s the platforms,” he said.

Chopra fielded a question Congressman Wu (D-OR), the current chairman of the House technology and innovation committee. After a discursion into what went wrong for the Democratic Party in the midterm, Wu asked what the next priority will be for Congress and Chopra to work together upon. His answer was simple: spectrum policy, emphasizing voluntary processes for formulating solution. The priority, he said, was to get a broadband network for public safety that’s interoperable for first responders.

Finally, Chopra talked about the story of the Alfred brothers, who founded Brightscope in California in 2008. The story of Brightscope is important: data driving the innovation economy. They knew about key data on 401(k) plan fees at the Department of Labor, worked hard to liberate it and now have a successful, growing startup as a result.

Look for video of the event on Politico’s multimedia section later today to tomorrow. For more on Chopra, open government and participatory platforms, read Radar or watch the interview below.

What’s the value proposition for open government data?

This weekend, I asked the Govloop community to tell me about the value proposition of open government data. Today at the International Open Government Data Conference in Washington, I’ll deliver a presentation that incorporates much of that feedback. I’ve embedded it below:

The audio livestream for my presentation and those of my fellow panelists will be available below:

http://www.ustream.tv/flash/live/1/18959?v3=1

The active backchannel on Twitter is embeddded below:

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HHS CTO Todd Park on HealthData.gov, Text4Baby and open health data

The first chief technology officer of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Todd Park, has been working hard to make community health data as useful as weather data. If that vision for open government at HHS matures, the innovation released in the private sector could meet or exceed the billions of dollars unlocked by GPS or NOAA data. To see the first steps in that direction, look no further than the healthcare apps that have already gone online, like the integration of community health data into Bing search results.

Park shared the next step in opening up health data last month out in California, when he announced HealthData.gov at the San Francisco Healthcamp. When interviewed yesterday at the mHealth Summit in Washington, Park shared more details about HealthData.gov, which he says will launch in December. He also shared a new goal for text4baby yesterday, which has now grown to be the biggest mobile health platform in the United States: 1 million moms by 2012.

HealthData.gov will be a new part of Data.gov with a health data catalog, including a roster of new public and private applications using the data, said Park. The site will launch with a new tool, a “Health Indicator Warehouse” with over 2000 metrics for United States, state and county health. HealthData.gov will also host an online community dedicated to health data, which should allow practitioners, technologists and entrepreneurs to learn from one another. The site is the next step in the framework HHS has created for government to act as a platform through the Community Health Data Initiative. The next question will be whether these applications lead to better outcomes for citizens and businesses that expand, bringing on new workers. Measuring that meaningful outcome will require more time.

Insight on what’s next from Bill Gates: mHealth, mCommerce and robots

“People underestimate the amount of innovation going on,” said Bill Gates at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. today. “They assume tech remains the same.” Given the thousands of attendees walking around the floor to see the mobile technology on display, there will be more awareness of what’s happening by the end of the day. Those listening to Gates in person or online could take away a few more lessons as well.

First of all, the key applications in the mobile health world are those that are tied to better outcomes, said Gates. Metrics like the number of children dying is one such metric, he said, and could be mitigated by mobile apps that register every birth on a cellphone to track vaccine coverage. Tracking supply chain for medical supplies and online medical records also can lower key metrics like child mortality, said Gates. Highlights from Bill Gate’s keynote conversation with Dr. Kristin Tolle are embedded below:

“In general, the world underfunds research because the person who takes the risk doesn’t capture the full benefit,” said Gates. “Government comes in for things the market doesn’t work well on.” Some research and development simply won’t get funded otherwise, in the absence of a strong profit motive. That’s likely one reason the Gates Foundation has focused on malaria, a disease that big pharmaceutical companies haven’t put significant resources behind.

“As the world goes from 6 billion to 9 billion, all of that population growth is in urban slums,” said Gates. That context provides a target for innovation in mobile healthcare technology, particularly given the increasing penetration of cellphones. Improving mortality rates is also relevant to that burgeoning population, he reflected. “Within a decade of having better health outcomes, people decide to have less children,” said Gates. citing the research of Han Rosling. Rosling’s TED Talk is below:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

What’s the medical challenge for the aid community to target? “Funding vaccines is so clear,” said Gates. Polio may not get eradicated because of a  lack of funding, he said, reflecting on “going begging” around the world to try to get the last $800 million dollars for vaccine.

What’s next? Where will innovation be happening and change how societies work? “Now the idea is to do digital transactions where you don’t use currency at all,” said Gates, pointing to M-PESA in Africa and the huge growth in mcommerce.

Those changes may not be proportional to the greatest needs, however, nor grounded in the traditional frame of ‘first world vs developing world.’ According to Gates, “middle income countries are where the most innovation in healthcare is going to happen.” The poorest countries need to address the true basic for survival before mhealth can make progress.

In richer countries, meaningful change is already happening because of mobile apps. Some of those innovations are just beginning to filter in. “What percentage of people have to be put in longterm care, versus have someone stop by?” asked Gates. Cellphones already enable new monitoring capabilities for seniors, children and caregivers; he anticipates better sensors and connectivity to change how we communicate and watch one another even further in the decades to come.

In a bid for the hearts and minds (and perhaps wallets) of the entrepreneurs present, Gates observed that conditions like obesity, diabetes and smoking cessation are good candidates for mobile health technology to address in rich countries.

He also appealed to officials making decisions on government policy and funding decisions.  “The degree that health and education go together – I don’t think that’s surprising,” he said. “We should invest in both.”

Asked to reflect upon where to invest next, Gates was clear: “If you just pick one thing, it’s got to be robots,” citing improvements in robotic mobility, dexterity, productivity and the growing needs of both an aging population and childcare.

He also reflected upon the future hinted at by the increasing use of big data tools to deliver insight. “Our ability to discover drugs using computation – that is changing,” he said. “In a ten to fifteen year period, it will be utterly different.”

Data BBQ features District tech entrepreneurs, passion and tasty open data.

Get off your index and build your Rolodex,” read the invite to last night’s Data BBQ in Washington, D.C.

And last night, that’s exactly what over a hundred people from around D.C.’s growing tech scene did, spilling out of the revamped officers of Insomniac Design in Bladgen Alley, near Mount Vernon Square.

The crowd was leavened with many attendees from the ongoing mHealth Summit 2010, manyof DC’s open data geeks and supporters and. Expert Labs’ Gina Trapani and Waxy.org’s Andy Baio came by from the FCC’s Open Developer Day to mix and mingle too. The highlight of the Data BBQ was the lightning talks, where attendees pitched projects, ideas, jobs or even spare rooms to the crowd. The talks are embedded below:

Many of the mHealth conferees no doubt know about the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge from the Department of Health and Human Services, where health data is being mashed up into new applications.

And, judging by the show of hands, many of the Data BBQ’ers had also heard about the World Bank’s Global Apps for Development Competition, which is looking to the development and practitioner communities to create innovative apps using World Bank data.

What might have been new to a few, at least, was the upcoming Apps for Army competition for the public, where the successful apps competition that Peter Corbett and iStrategy Labs helped the Army run will be rebooted for wider participation.