Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Data.gov Breaks 100k Mark (Well, Kinda)

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, July 24 2009

So blogged OMB director Peter Orszag this morning. Let's give him a chance to celebrate that remarkable growth, and then we'll, alas, have to quibble with a few details:

Today, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced that the number of datasets on Data.gov has increased from 47 to more than 100,000 – with new sets being added continuously.

Data.gov was created to open up the workings of government by allowing the public to easily access datasets generated by the Federal government to perform research, build applications, and conduct analyses. Since its launch in June, Data.gov has received more than 18 million hits.

Public participation and collaboration are critical components to the success of Data.gov. The public can suggest datasets they'd like to see, rate and comment on current datasets, and suggest ways to improve the site. The early response has been very positive. Individuals and organizations are not only viewing the data, but are also improving upon our work by analyzing and repurposing the information. The Sunlight Foundation recently launched Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge to elicit from the public the most innovative applications based on the data available on Data.gov. One of the submissions is FlyOnTime.us. This site uses data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, available on Data.gov, to allow consumers to see estimated versus actual arrival times for flights on major commercial carriers.

As part of the movement towards transparency and openness, Vivek Kundra has been working with state and local governments to encourage them to open the warehouses of public data. A few have already taken up the challenge, and you can track their progress by clicking here.

Pulling together than 100,000 data sets (110,076, to be exact) in just a few short months is quite an achievement. It marks a giant leap over the few hundred feeds Data.gov has hosted until now, not to mention the status quo of the federal government in recent years. But it has to be said. When Orszag writes "the number of datasets on Data.gov has increased from 47 to more than 100,000," it leaves an impression that isn't entirely accurate.

What Data.gov is doing with today's growth is acting as a clearinghouse for data sets maintained by other government agencies, like EPA, Commerce Department, Department of the Interior. Those data sets can be notoriously unwieldy, broken, or otherwise difficult to work with. That's part of the dream of Data.gov -- that we might have one central place to go where the data is so well done that it increases the odds that citizens, the media, and advocacy groups will make use of it.

Click around the new data sets listed under "GeoData" on Data.gov, though, and you'll notice that will some are locally-hosted GIS data files, many aren't actually "on Data.gov" at all. They're hosted by other offices, research institutes, and agencies. Click on the entry for a zooplankton biomass and species survey, and you're pushed off Data.gov to a site hosted by a consortium of public and private researchers.

In its own way entirely sensible. Keeping 100,000 data sets current and well crafted is probably a Sisyphean task for an agency the size of OMB. But there are challenges with acting as a clearinghouse rather than a data host. Click on the entry for a North American butterfly survey, for example, lands you on a U.S. Geological Survey page which reads "Butterflies & Moths of North America have moved!" And a Data.gov entry for a crop modeling study points you to a NASA.gov page that requires registration before you can download the data set.

Data.gov's growth has demonstrated the commitment of the Obama Administration to freeing government data across the full range of government. Deserved kudos there. But we haven't arrived at the promised land yet.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

More