White House chooses VMware’s Tony Scott to be next U.S. CIO

VMware’s Tony Scott has been chosen to become the next U.S. chief information officer, according to a White House announcement on Thursday. Scott will follow in the footsteps of previous U.S. CIOs Vivek Kundra and Steve VanRoekel and be tasked with spearheading the White House’s Smarter IT Delivery Agenda and looking over the nation’s federal IT budget. Scott is currently VMware’s CIO and was previously the CIO of Microsoft for a little over five years. The White House hasn’t had an official CIO since VanRoekel left the post to return to the US Agency for International Development where he advised the government on the Ebola outbreak.

Open data progress is slow, warns Web Foundation

Accessible open data about government spending and services remains a pipe dream across most of the world, an 86-country survey by the World Wide Web Foundation has found.

The second edition of the Open Data Barometer, which came out on Tuesday, showed that fewer than 8 percent of surveyed countries publish datasets on things like government budgets, spending and contracts, and on the ownership of companies, in bulk machine-readable formats and under open re-use licenses.

This is particularly disappointing as both the G7 and G20 groups of countries have said they will try to create more governmental transparency by providing open data that anyone can crunch and build new businesses upon. Globally, the report states that “the trend is towards steady, but not outstanding, growth in open data readiness and implementation.”

According to web inventor and Foundation founder Tim Berners-Lee:

The G7 and G20 blazed a trail when they recognised open data as a crucial tool to strengthen transparency and fight corruption. Now they need to keep their promises to make critical areas like government spending and contracts open by default. The unfair practice of charging citizens to access public information collected with their tax resources must cease.

The G7 (which was the G8 before Russia left last year) signed a charter in 2013 in which the advanced economies said they would be open “by default”, and would publish key datasets in that year.

Now, out of those nations, only the U.K. has an open company register and only the U.K. and Canada publish land ownership data in open formats and under open licenses. Only the U.K. and the U.S. publish detailed open data on government spending, and only the U.S., Canada and France publish open data on national environment statistics. Open mapping data is only published in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany.

As you can no doubt tell, the U.K. is the global leader in this field, followed by the U.S., then Sweden, then France and New Zealand in tied fourth place – France is improving rapidly, having been in 10th place in 2013. G7 members Japan and Italy languish in 19th and 22nd place respectively, publishing almost no key datasets as open data except for Japan’s crime statistics. (Incidentally, the University of Chicago’s Jens Ludwig will be giving an interesting talk about tackling crime with data at our upcoming Structure Data conference in March.)

Of those in the “emerging and advancing” cluster of countries, Spain and Chile (up 10 places on 2013) are on top of the pile with rankings of 13th and 15th place respectively. The worst performer out of all the surveyed countries was Burma.

South Carolina tells Uber to shut down in the state

On Thursday, South Carolina’s Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order for Uber to cease operations. The state governing body warned the company to stop its service immediately and not to resume until all its driver partners have proper certification. In the directive, the PSC said, “Consumers benefit from, and deserve choices in, the marketplace. However, those choices must be consistent with state law intended to protect the public.”It’s not the only local government that feels that way. State governor Nikki Haley, however, didn’t feel the same. She sent a letter to the PSC Friday expressing disapproval at the decision.

The Times calls for mercy for Edward Snowden

Today, the New York Times editorial board formally asked the U.S. government to consider a plea bargain for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is on the run from charges of espionage and theft. After tallying the instances of surveillance abuse that Snowden’s information uncovered, the Times editorial board states the NSA contractor had no choice but to do what he did, as official channels had failed: “In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.”