Today the Obama administration announced that the US will invest $200 million to improve the government's ability to "extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data," in an effort to accelerate national discoveries in science and engineering. The effort will involve a number of federal agencies, including DARPA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Highlights from the initiative include:

  • Grants for an "EarthCube" project that's intended to allow geoscientists to analyze and share information about the planet
  • Defense projects that aim to bring tie together "sensing, perception, and decision support to make truly autonomous systems that can maneuver and make decisions on their own"
  • A project between the NSF and the University of California, Berkeley that will explore approaches for turning data into information, including machine learning, cloud computing, and crowd sourcing
  • A partnership with Amazon Web Services to host a massive genetic database

In a blog post, science and technology policy director Tom Kalil says that the White House wants to "challenge industry, research universities, and non-profits to join with the administration to make the most of opportunities created by big data," and that "the government can't do this on its own" — he says President Obama is calling big data an "all hands on deck effort." It's the latest in a number of technology-based efforts from President Obama, who called on federal agencies last year to accelerate the transfer of federal technologies to the private sector to bolster job growth, and recently, NASA announced that it will auction off three sets of patents. It's not clear if tech will be a major campaign issue this year, but the Obama administration's recent actions suggest that it might be — at least in order to improve the nation's job market.