Census introduces API to make information more accessible

As part of the policy to create a more information- and customer-centric government, the Census Bureau has released a new tool that gives citizens better access to important U.S. statistics.

Census’ first-ever public Application Programming Interface makes key demographic, socioeconomic and housing statistics more accessible than before. The API also allows developers to design web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy.

The Obama administration’s strategy for a digital government makes web APIs the new default. The first milestones require agencies to identify at least two existing major customer-facing services with high-value data, and then expose that information through web APIs.

With Census' new API, developers can customize Census statistics into web or mobile apps that provide users easy access from two popular sets of statistics:

• 2010 Census, which includes statistics on population, age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status, for different geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.

• 2006-2010 American Community Survey, which displays figures on an array of  topics -- ranging from education and income to employment and occupation -- down to the level of census tracts and block groups.

The Census API opens up the agency’s statistics beyond traditional uses, and gives data developers a way to customize Census statistics into an app their audiences and customers need, said Robert Groves, director at Census.

For example, statistics available through this API could help developers create apps that show commuting patterns for every U.S. city or provide a local government various socioeconomic statistics on its population.

Developers can access the API online and share ideas through the Census Bureau’s Developers Forum.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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