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More Details Released On White House Plan for a One-Stop Business Portal to Government

BY Nick Judd | Friday, October 28 2011

The White House today released more details on BusinessUSA, its promised one-stop web portal for businesses to access government programs and services.

The platform's creation will be supervised by White House Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients, according to a memo from President Barack Obama released today. The memo gives 90 days for a committee led by the three White House officials to come back with BusinessUSA, which it describes as " a common, open, online platform and web service with dedicated resources that will, as a first step, disseminate core information regarding the Federal Government's programs and services relevant to small businesses and exporters."

What makes the platform ambitious is the desire to integrate state and local government services into the offerings it makes available, as well as agency small business and export programs. The memo also asks agencies to standardize the way they collect, organize and present information about their business programs. Leading up to the announcement of BusinessUSA as an idea in September, these two points put together made open data and open standards advocates perk up their ears.

One adage of open data advocates has been that requiring agencies to prepare their data for public consumption also makes it easier to share data with peers in other departments or at other levels — from county to city, for example. If that's the case, then all of a sudden datasets like this New York City set on license fees issued by the Department of Buildings or this Portland, Ore. list of urban renewal areas start to make more sense: They might be aggregated into BusinessUSA to form one searchable, logical whole.

Or the whole project could go to seed. While the Obama memo called for BusinessUSA to be developed in consultation with businesses and "relevant online communities" — is that you, Civic Commons? — the White House's track record of late on software projects has not been stellar. This morning, I noted a story in Politico today in which two Democratic members of Congress criticized the Obama administration for its handling of USAJobs.gov, a site for people who want to work for the federal government. Sen. John Kerry is quoted as criticizing the White House Office of Personnel Management for "repeated outages and numerous glitches" on the site.

I've reached out to the White House looking for more information and will update if there's anything else to add.