Chopra Pushes “Open Innovation” in Hampton Roads

Aneesh Chopra
Aneesh Chopra

Aneesh Chopra took his message of “open innovation” on the road to Hampton Roads yesterday, pushing the case for making government data more readily available to the public for transformation into commercial products and services. Perhaps the single best example of wealth creation that can flow from government data, the Weather Channel, came from Hampton Roads, he noted. Norfolk-based Landmark Media Enterprises, which owns the Virginian-Pilot, launched the Weather Channel, which grew into a company of more than $500 million a year in revenue.

“Weather is a $5 billion-a-year industry,” said Chopra, “but the source data that fuels that industry comes from the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds the satellites and the sensor networks that produces the raw data, which is open to anyone to consume, to build weather apps and other products and services.” (See story in the Pilot Online.)

A former Secretary of Technology for Virginia and former chief technology officer under President Obama, Chopra touted the “democratization of data” as one of several strategies for increasing entrepreneurial opportunity. Citing data showing the Hampton Roads had the lowest rate of new business start ups of any Virginia region in 2013, he also discussed ways of building the entrepreneurial talent pool by recruiting from the immigrant community, establishing regional early-stage capital and tapping the skills of tech-trainable veterans.

“No one’s going to come here – a white knight – saving the region while you sit back and observe passively,” said Chopra, a co-founder of Hunch Analytics, a Northern Virginia big data firm. “This requires active participation.”


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5 responses to “Chopra Pushes “Open Innovation” in Hampton Roads”

  1. My question – why doesn’t the Govt get a return on investment on things like weather data – and for that matter GPS?

    how much of our entitlements and military spending could we get from licensing and data rather than taxes?

  2. or maybe look at this as how much the govt COULD have gotten and see how much that compares to what we pay in taxes.

    these are not the only examples of things the govt does – that provides enormous value to the private sector.

    consider how many companies make significant profits for selling compiled zip code data fused with census data. How much of the costs of operating the Census Dept and the Postal Service could have been defrayed had they charged ONLY for the costs incurred in developing and maintaining those operations?

    I’m trying to understand WHY the govt is precluded from recovering it’s own costs – not making a profit – just recovering it’s own costs..

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I think there is a difference between a situation where a business makes direct use of something developed by the government or receives a service therefrom and when the public benefits generally. In the former, I agree with Larry that it would be reasonable for the government agency (and not the government employee or contractor) to recoup some of its costs through sales, leases or licenses. Similarly, where there is a public good (such as radio spectrum) that is commercialized such as cellular radio, it’s reasonable to auction the “public asset” as Congress had directed the FCC to do.

    But if government information is effectively released in the public domain (say more accurate GPS information or the location of graves in a national cemetery) and used by the public, I cannot see charging for that. Likewise, when radio spectrum is available to the public on an unlicensed basis, such frequencies available for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or microwave ovens, I cannot see charging the public again. It’s paying taxes.

    If, on the other hand, a pharmaceutical company takes a discovery made by NIH scientists and turns it into a commercial product, I think royalties should be paid to the Treasury.

  4. well, we’re closer than we often are – but if the govt spend taxes providing a service – like weather – and Conservatives like Perry of Texas says Commerce should be done away with … why not cover the weather bureau’s costs. Ditto with the Post Office which conservatives want to close and people say costs too much – why not cover costs with zip-code data that companies use to market with. In both cases, billon of dollars of private sector money and profits are made from data the govt produces and has to fund with taxes.

  5. my premise is – if you added up the VALUE of all the things that government has “created” – and yes that is a fair word when you talk about things like GPS and Weather Satellites as well as the internet and drone technology, doppler radar and an almost endless number of things that required a longer investment period than the private sector is willing to sustain…

    we may well have not truly repaid all of it with our income taxes…

    certainly when it comes to public roads and railroads – without the govt using eminent domain – we’d be like many third world countries in terms of commerce and basically the freedom to be mobile.. and have at our fingertips – virtually anything from around the world that we desire.

    the “value” of public roads – and rails provided to each of us – even those who do not drive, far, far exceed what we pay in gas taxes and even tolls yet we endlessly carp about it.

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