There is certainly a long list of challenges facing the Obama administration – the economy, healthcare, and two wars just to name a few. Regardless of your politics, I think there is one aspect of the Administration’s efforts that require further discussion and exploration. On his first day in office President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. The memorandum outlined a commitment to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government…” It promised to “ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” My intent in this post is not to have a broader discussion on the topic of the Administration’s openness, but rather to explore two very specific components of that pledge – the launch of Data.Gov and Apps.Gov
As part of his focus on technology as a key driver of government effectiveness, openness and efficiency President Obama appointed two impressive and accomplished executives to lead this effort: Vivek Kundra (Federal CIO) and Aneesh Chopra (Federal CTO). I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to both Vivek and Aneesh and have been impressed with their plans to leverage technology, especially Web 2.0 and Social Media, to provide enhanced services to citizens. Data.Gov and Apps.Gov are two important components of that effort.
Data.Gov was launched in 2009. The stated objective of Data.Gov is to” increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.” Data.Gov provides three kinds of data catalogs. “Raw” Data Catalog: a catalog with instant view/download of platform-independent, machine readable data (e.g., XML, CSV, KMZ/KML, or shape file formats). Tools Catalog: a catalog to provide the public with simple, application-driven access to Federal data with hyperlinks. This catalog features widgets, data mining and extraction tools, applications, and other services. Geodata Catalog: a catalog that includes trusted and authoritative Federal geospatial data. This catalog includes links to download the datasets and a metadata page with details on the datasets, as well as links to more detailed Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) metadata information. (source: data.gov faq)
Currently the data set includes 1,078 Raw Data, 484 Tools and 167,394 Geodata records. A review of the data currently available” by Agency” provides some interesting insight. The US EPA had 6,151 downloads of data the week prior to Feb 8th, 2010. The Department of the Interior and the US Treasury came in second and third with 4,352 and 4,079 downloads, respectively. The US EPA also had the most raw data sets at 426 while the lowest number of data sets came from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission at zero (yes that is zero – somehow this made me a little nervous !).
The US Government and its many agencies produce massive amounts of data each year. By providing academics, researchers and companies access to this data we may enable individual researcher to find a cure for cancer or a college department to discover a weather pattern that can prevent natural disasters. This is the power of open access to data – for the people, by the people !
Apps.Gov is a very interesting and potentially powerful initiative. Essentially this is a private cloud for the US Government. Managed by the General Services Administration (GSA), Apps.Gov includes Business Apps, Productivity Apps, Social Media Apps and Cloud IT Services. The platform/exchange is similar to other successful private sector application exchanges such as the SAP EcoHub , the Salesforce AppExchange and of course the Apple Iphone App Store.
Apps.Gov provides government agencies a single marketplace to buy and use a broad range of applications. In the Business Apps section for example HP has 526 solutions listed, Microsoft has 65, VMWare has 716 and Salesforce has 67. Several other companies have multiple solutions available. Apps.Gov could have a profound impact on how the US Government buys and consumes software.
So here is the Right Question: Have data.gov and apps.gov delivered on their promise of fostering an open, efficient and effective government ? Are they on the right track and what would you do different ?
I would welcome your views and opinions and especially your stories if you have used data from these sites or have any other experience related to this effort.
Photo Credit: Ian-s
Filed under: Data & Analytics, Enterprise Software, Government, Innovation, Social Media, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: Analytics, Aneesh Chopra, Applications, Data, Government, Innovation, Social Media, Software, Technology, Vivek Kundra |