Sean McSpaden, Deputy CIO of Oregon State and Deb Bryant discuss the Virtual USA project & open data

Jan 11, 2011   //   by Nate DiNiro   //   Blog, Crisis Management, GOSCON 2010, Government, Interviews  //  1 Comment

Sean McSpaden, Oregon State Deputy CIO, spoke with Deb Bryant, GOSCON conference Chair and Public Sector Communities Manager from Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab. McSpaden was attending the 2010 Government Open Source Conference.

Bryant initially asked about the state of the Virtual USA Program and the Oregon’s participation in the program. McSpaden detailed its evolution, from a collaboration between the State of Alabama’s Virtual Alabama Project and Virginia’s VIPER project to the eventual creation of a consortium of States, first in the Southeast and then in the Pacific Northwest. The consortium has been coordinated byDepartment of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate Command, Control & Interoperability Division. The overall project is intended to create a common operating picture for emergency response by enabling the sharing of information across multiple agencies and even multiple states. McSpaden went on to say that the system proved useful during the Gulf oil spill thanks to its basis on open standards, allowing BP, Walmart, as well as other responders to effectively operate their respective portions of the response effort.

While the platform and system underlying the several state capabilities developed via Virtual USA program are proprietary, McSpaden did say that there was an attempt to adopt some of the hallmarks of an open source project. A focus on interoperability, permitting code sharing and utilization of open data standards are just a few points that McSpaden mentions. McSpaden says for example, the work on Virginia’s VIPER system was done for hire by a contractor with expertise in Adobe Flex and ESRI software. However, one of the main requirements was that Virtual USA must support users in a multi-viewer environment, allowing for consumption of data in users own systems.

McSpaden also shared details of Oregon’s open data initiative on Data.Oregon.gov site. McSpaden explained that they planned to leverage partnerships with agencies like Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation, and said that their approach was to permit a “wide and varied focus of interest” on the types of data state Oregon agencies bring to the table. “We want to mash it with our Geospatial holdings”, McSpaden said. Contrary to the opinions of some civic application developers and enthusiasts who are using these raw data sets to build “civic applications”, McSpaden asserted that Oregon is working to provide the information as continuously available open data services to its consumers, not as data sets to be repetitively downloaded by interested parties.

UPDATE: We thank Mr. McSpaden for contacting us with clarifications to the facts presented, and those corrections have been incorporated.

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