Recovery.gov gets a facelift

Transparency test is coming

The retooled Recovery.gov Web site for tracking economic stimulus law funding is getting mostly a thumbs-up from visitors, but another test for transparency will come later this month when the site begins adding hundreds of thousands more data points from state and local recipients of the funding. The new data will go live Oct. 30.

“The biggest question is what the recipient reporting will look like,” said Thomas Lee, a technology director at the Sunlight Foundation. Data quality, accuracy, completeness and traceability are likely to be concerns, as they are in other federal spending databases, he said.

“The same fundamental problems of not knowing when something is missing vs. being incorrect will affect this data,” Lee said.

The revamped Web site, with interactive maps, new layout and more prominent displays of spending data, went online Sept. 28. Most visitors seem to like the new features. “Overall, this is a positive effort,” Lee said.

But industry experts said some of Recovery.gov’s new tools could use a bit of tweaking. For example, the Recovery.gov map presents images of U.S. states but does not label them. That makes the maps more difficult to use, said Seth Grimes, principal consultant on data management at Alta Plana.

“The map design is problematic unless you have a high degree of geographic literacy,” Grimes said. “That would have been an easy step to take.”

Ed Pound, director of communications at Recovery.gov, promised that the site will continue to improve. “Recovery.gov is a work in progress,” Pound said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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