What Should We Tell the White House?

June 7, 2010

whitehouse.jpgI’d love your feedback on this question.

Last Friday morning, I met with Aman Bhandari in President Obama’s Chief Technology Office. It was an intense 45 minutes! Aman is coordinating
the Community Health Data Initiative,
which involves taking the datasets that HHS has recently released to the
public, incorporating other datasets through partnerships, and inspiring
a crowdsourced app development movement to help make sense of the data –
with the ultimate goal of having a positive impact on national health.

Most of the data they have released is only as detailed as county
level. We spent about 10 minutes talking about personal informatics and
the Quantified Self. I suggested that the Initiative could become more
powerful and widespread in two related ways: 1. by opening up more
granular data and 2. by looking beyond only corporate partnerships and
tapping into the mass self-tracking that engaged citizens are doing.

Aman recognized the trend and basically said “Great, I’d love to.
Tell us how to do it.”

Win!! 🙂

Then we got into a discussion of the future of mobile
health
, open science platforms, crowdsourced health data, and health policy.

The Quantified Self community has an
opportunity here to provide a list of recommendations to the White House
about how to engage with the self-tracking movement, possibly including
the creation of a citizen data commons
. I’d love to discuss further with anyone interested, and hear
your thoughts on how we can best respond.

On a side note, I was surprised by two things:
1. Obama’s
strategy for innovation has generated a real startup feel in the
government – there are small, scrappy, energized, no-budget teams doing
rapid experiments to see what works and how to engage with the public.
They have more questions than answers. They are looking for ideas,
partners, and people interested in helping out or serving on committees
to help maximize the impact of this new openness. I grew up in politics,
with my mom serving as the Canadian equivalent of state representative,
and I’ve never seen anything like this.

2. The stark lack of awareness of basic QS concepts in the general
population – I admit I live in the Silicon Valley bubble, but when the
asthma inhaler tracker
was demonstrated at the Community Health Data
Forum event, there was actually an uproar of laughter from the
audience, because people had never imagined anything like that to be
remotely possible. We’re definitely still way out on the fringe, even in
highly educated circles.

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