The Gallery: Open Government Act 2

state house gallery

In Act 2 of Open Government, organizations that promote open data are fostering more commercial activity in application software (apps) and services, and facilitating improved outcomes across a range of government goals.

Act 1 of Open Government, launched the day after the inauguration 4 years ago, brought us transparency, collaboration, and participation. Transparency brought us data, lots and lots of data. Initially this data was just “open.” For example, data was placed on often without any context for better comprehension and use. At the federal level, now provides a searchable catalog of over 375,000 raw data and geospatial data sets from nearly 180 federal agencies and sub-agencies. However, as Act 2 of Open Government begins, we observe that this site also provides data tools, with over 1,250 government developed and over 230 citizen-developed apps. These apps, which range from extraction tools to data feeds to widgets, provide easier, quicker, and more flexible access to government information to citizens, analysts and developers – and even other government agencies.

The ending of Act 2 has yet to be written. Citizens not only expect anytime/anywhere data, but also expect access to government data on their mobile device of choice. How government responds in this budgetary climate to citizens’ expectations, and provides meaningful information from the voluminous data that government produces remains to be seen. Should government provide Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as a new default when it comes to providing information, and let commercial developers create the applications that leverage this information for public consumption, especially for mobile apps that require interfaces to so many smart devices?

The Census Bureau recently released an API that opens access to both the 2010 Census data and the American Community Survey, and has had over 800 commercial developers access this API. According to the Census Bureau, the first third party app using this data was developed within 24 hours of the release of the API, and the availability of this API is already giving citizens better access to important U.S. statistics such as demographic, socioeconomic and housing statistics.

By making high-value data and content openly available through APIs and websites, government is transcending to the Smart Government stage – making it easier for agencies to share some of their most crucial data internally and with other agencies, and assisting citizens in finding and using this data. And by providing commercial developers the tools to build applications around important government data, government leverages precious resources. Sounds like Act 2 may have a smart ending.

This post is by: Adelaide O’Brien, Research Director, Smart Government Strategies, IDC Government Insights, in addition to her role at IDC, she writes for the Smart Government Blog.

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