The Agenda

The Blue Button Approach to Sparking Change

Eric Blattberg describes U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra’s efforts to use government to facilitate information-sharing:

“For the key sectors of the economy that need the capabilities of networking and information technology, invariably they are affected by policy,” Chopra said in a conversation with The Economist’s Vijay Vaitheeswaran at the inaugural NExTWORK technology conference Wednesday. “So an effective government that’s a partner can actually do a better job of opening up the potential for networking and information technologies to have actual impact on the sectors of healthcare, energy, education, manufacturing, and dare I say the government itself.”

This is government with a little ‘g’ — convener, cheerleader, and financier. The federal government can play a role in encouraging liberation of data, standardization of tools, and pre-competitive research and development simulation, said Chopra, but it won’t strangle industry with policy.

Blatterberg goes on to cite an encouraging example:

Responding to a challenge from the president, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began digitizing its records, allowing veterans to download portions of their personal health data “at the push of a blue button.” Since then, over 300,000 Americans have downloaded their ‘blue button’.

Aetna, the largest repository of personal health records with over 10 million users, this month announced that it was going to ‘blue button’ its database. Not to be outdone, said Chopra, the CEO of Walgreens flew down to Washington the next day to announce that he was going to ‘blue button’ the Walgreens database. Within a year, 10 million Americans will have access to that data via the web.

This reminds me of the Open Educational Resources initiative.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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