Damon Davis: NextGov Bold Award Finalist
by Todd Akers
It was not quite 5 years old and HealthData.gov was already running on outdated technology. The portal launched in 2011 with 197 datasets and by 2015 had swelled to more than 1,900 datasets and a handful of data mining applications. The good news is that the size and demand proved the value of President Barack Obama’s open government initiative. The bad news is that HealthData.gov was not meeting demand and was in need of a major overhaul.
Rather than viewing this as a problem to be solved, Damon Davis, director for the Health Data Initiative at the Department of Health and Human Services, saw this as an opportunity for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reinvent online data delivery. Not only for HHS, but for the entire U.S. government.
“What we are going to try to do is advance the platform to be something that is going to be more usable, better search, easier access to data sets that also will support more ‘liquid’ forms of data,” Davis said.
Davis has long held the idea that data is one of the most valuable and strategic assets within the walls of HHS. Davis saw the relaunch of HealthData.gov as an opportunity to further data sharing beyond the original intent of portal, and create a true community around health data sets. This would enable both those within and those outside of HHS to share and collaborate more easily, and enable outside experts to solve complex health care related problems.
At the onset of the project, cloud adoption within the U.S. Government was rare, but Davis wasn’t afraid to break the status quo. His new, bold approach used the cloud and open source software in ways never previously done in the field of healthcare data management. To meet his lofty goals, Davis chose to use DKAN, a Drupal-based open source, open data platform developed by NuCivic, supported by the Acquia Cloud. His team was able to migrate more than 1,900 data sets and relaunch HealthData.gov within 60 days. The ending result is an open, user-friendly data source available to all citizens ranging from academia to industry.
Through this approach Davis created the model for agile, impactful government operations. Because of this accomplishment, NextGov has named Damon a finalist in its Bold Awards honors. We're pulling for him and hope you'll take a minute to cast a vote on his behalf in NextGov's People's Choice Awards. Voting is open from August 10-14. Winners will be announced Sept. 9 during NextGov Prime.