The start of transparent government

The announcement of Data.gov marks an important shift in government, opening up our data to us and enabling collaboration and creation with government.

Jake Brewer of the Sunlight Foundation also announces a contest to create apps atop the API.

I believe that in the future ecosystem of news, transparent government data will play a key part. It will enable us to have millions of watchdogs on government’s action.

I also hope that this openness starts to shift the conversation around government from get-the-bastards to collaboration and creation.

Brewer says:

New federal CIO Vivek Kundra and the Obama Administration have officially launched Data.gov, which is the first-ever catalog of federal data being made freely (and easily) available to citizens.

Now, it’s unlikely the description of Data.gov will send chills down the spine of anyone who doesn’t speak Ruby or Python or MYSQL, and if you visit the site, it’s unlikely you’ll be struck or know to be impressed by what’s there. But if you step back and take a minute to understand what you’re looking at, you’ll realize we’ve just taken an unprecedented first step into the Era of Big Open Government.

When information and process become free and participatory, markets get created (think about weather data), more people engage more deeply with their government (see: Obama’s online townhall), and ultimately, people care more about what their government does and how it serves them. …it’s nearly impossible for people to know more about what’s going on and care less.

Transparency is at the heart of destroying apathy.

The key with this new data, though, is that we do something with it. While opening up data is a beautiful thing in its own right, what will make this release truly great is when citizens actually take the information and create new, brilliant applications.

That’s why Sunlight Labs in partnership with Google, O’Reilly Media, and Craig Newmark of Craig’s List has simultaneously launched a contest with $25,000 in awards to incentivize the creation of said brilliance.

Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge

  • Walter Abbott

    I’ll stop the “get-the-bastards” mentality when the bastards show some restraint on their mentality of first and total claim on the fruits of my labor. Until then, it’s total war on them.

  • http://energy jeff

    Good day. Can you please make contact with your Congressional voice and urge them to support a true energy bill based on sound science, in regards to climate change. Currently, the new energy and climate change bill allocates federal dollars for coal, gas, oil and nuclear. These energies are responsible for climate change, according to NASA. Also, current Director of CIA, Leon Panetta agrees with Kyoto model. Federal dollars for these energies most stop now. Solar, wave, wind, Plasco technology, Tesla and natural gas from animal and human waste can generate and surpass the dirty energy mentioned above, without green house emission. I support federal spending of 240 billion dollars per category of renewable energy mentioned above, which is what gas and oil receives annually from your tax dollars. If you agree please make your opinions known to your Congressional voice. Demand the current energy and climate change bill be discarded and a true energy and climate change bill be authorized. If not, we will lose another 20 years on this topic. I support signature to Kyoto, ICC, HR676, HR 1207, education funding, organic produce and cancellation of all private war contracts. Thank you. jeffnelson039@gmail.com.

  • http://blogs.adobe.com/jd John Dowdell

    Jeff, how can you accept a “transparency” campaign from someone who has hidden away every normal citizenship record and who responds to taxpayer requests to open up with “it’s all garbage”?

  • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

    The government provides vastly more information than what is listed on Data.gov. What you see there is just a tiny sampling of what is available — enough to justify a press release and set the direction… Hopefully, they’ll build out the catalog quickly…

    bob wyman

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Amen.

    • http://wyman.us Bob Wyman

      Apparently, the plans are to very rapidly increase the amount of data provided by Data.gov. An editorial in the NY Times claims that while Data.gov currently only provides about 50 feeds: “The next 240,000 feeds are on tap for next month”
      See: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/opinion/26tue3.html

      bob wyman

  • http://www.businessword.com Donald Johnson

    Interesting data tools and sets.

    People who make money using the government’s stats know how to get them the moment preliminary and final reports are released to the privileged few. Such datasets often don’t appear on the web for weeks or months after they’re released.

    Generally, you can get access to more info by going to the Census Bureau or the various government agencies’ web sites as well as to the GPO and other sites.

    To date, my frustration has been that a lot of data is published using old software such as Word Perfect and clunky pdfs. Much of it has not been Mac compatible.

    The trick is to turn data into information. That’s what market and policy analysts do. Few journalists mine databases because most are afraid of numbers and prefer to talk to “experts” who interpret the data for them. Or they read reports on the data.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen journalists outside of the trade press do their own data mining.

    What would be great would be if more blogs would do the data mining on topics besides macro economics and finance. You’ll almost never see it in newspapers.

    Another great sources of data are CBO and Congressional committee reports, which often are overlooked by the media, but not by people who know how to use the reports to discover money making opportunities.

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com Paramendra Bhagat

    Grassroots electioneering to grassroots governance.

  • Hawkins

    There’s exactly zero probability & zero proof that: “Data.gov marks an important shift in government, opening up our data to us and enabling collaboration and creation with government”. Pure wishful thinking.

    Americans suffer a romantic tendency to judge government politicians/bureaucrats by their lofty rhetoric & promises rather than typical grim realities & results.

    The Federal government already has 50,000+ public-information workers on the taxpayer payroll; therefore, citizens must already be enjoying a vast cornucopia of transparency & information (??) If not, just a few more information bureaucrats, network-tweaks, and grand promises will release all that data our government is so eager to share ?

    Reality is that politicians/bureaucrats always jealously conceal critical data about their activities and job performance… while praising/rewarding themselves, and spreading disinformation. It’s in their self interest to do so. Anyone familiar with Freedom-of-Information-Act filings knows how difficult it is to extract even clearly identified “public information” from entrenched bureaucracies… no matter who is Mayor/Governor/President.

    Data.gov launched with only 47 datasets from across the government… a very tiny fraction of the staggering level of Federal information stores. One day, Data.gov might reach the 10% level, but that will be a mass of routine statistics and mind-numbing text (noise). The Federal machine primarily operates beyond citizen observation and real accountability. That’s very intentional and it will NOT change.

    (P.S. — “collaboration” seems a poor choice of words by Data.gov. Perhaps appropriate to the Vichy French, but not to American citizens and their noble governors ? )