NOAA wants to turn its ocean of data into jobs

Private sector is asked to put on its thinking cap about how to best turn NOAAs big data into products

WASHINGTON - From ocean sensors to orbiting satellites, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects about 30 petabytes of environmental data annually. But only about 10% of the data is made public, something the agency now wants to change.

NOAA wants to move its vast amount of untapped data into a public cloud, but without having to pay a whopping cloud services bill.

The agency believes the data has a lot of value to it, and is now seeking partnerships with commercial entities, universities and others. An ideal partner might be someone who can apply advanced analytics to the data to create new products and value-added services that also generates new jobs.

"It's not just about getting the information out there, it's about creating jobs and creating new businesses," Joe Klimavicz, NOAA's CIO, said in an interview.

While the data can be used to create new commercial products, NOAA wants it to also be publicly available without charge. "American citizens have already paid for this data and we don't believe they should have to pay for it again," said Klimavicz.

NOAA got the ball rolling on its plan last Friday with the release of a request for information (RFI). The RFI gives the government the ability to collect ideas without obligation.

It is seeking partners who can rapidly scale and handle traffic surges, "removing government infrastructure as a bottleneck to the pace of American innovation and enabling new value-added services and unimaginable integration into our daily lives."

Klimavicz doesn't want a static site that acts as repository of data, but something that is continuously updated and linked to advanced analytics and computational capabilities.

The agency doesn't have the budget to accomplish this task on its own, said Klimavicz.

Those responding to the RFI, are being asked to describe their "vision of potential innovations, products, or opportunities," and how "NOAA's data could create jobs or spur the economy."

There are technical challenges as well, including a request in the RFI for describing "a viable methodology for extracting environmental data" that is dispersed geographically.

The agency wants the ideas by March 24.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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