Showcasing the best government data sources

An experimental website seeks to guide users to real-world examples of government data organized in useful ways.

firstfuel screenshot

Firstfuel, which creates energy-related analytics, is an example of a private-sector user of the federal data showcased on alpha.data.gov.

Building on President Barack Obama's Digital Government Strategy, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program has launched an experimental one-page website that showcases "the very best" open data resources at http://alpha.data.gov.

Users of the site can view existing government open data resources in a variety of subject areas, like education, health, energy and commerce, and discover ways in which private-sector entrepreneurs and innovators are using that data to solve problems and benefit the public.

3 goals

The Digital Government Strategy, published in May 2012, set three broad goals -- all of which involve making data more useful and accessible:

Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.

Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our Nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.

A White House blog post authored by John Paul Farmer, senior advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, and fellows Danny Chapman and Ryan Panchadsaram, says that the effort is in response to the public's demand for open data.

"Over the past few months, through video chats, conference calls, and in-person meetings, thousands of Americans have connected with us to learn and share ideas about our work—and this Administration's commitment—to unleash data from the vaults of the government as fuel for innovation," the post states. "Time and again, we were asked why more people weren't aware of these '"Open Data'" efforts, their numerous benefits for Americans, and how to get engaged."

While the project is experimental, the blog post promises "it will grow and evolve to help catalyze future improvements to the design, content and infrastructure" of www.data.gov, the government's current open data repository of machine-readable datasets.

"2013 promises to be a busy year for Open Data efforts at The White House and across government. But this story isn't just about us. It's about what we can all do together to spur game-changing innovation through the application of Open Data," the blog post states.

The Presidential Innovation Fellows are a collection of innovators from the private sector, non-profit organizations, academia and the federal sector charged with engineering solutions to five projects, one of which is open data initiatives.

Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio said the new site was "a breath of fresh air," and shows that government agencies can "can shift from being simple open data providers, to become open data hubs."

"Whereas I suspect that large information service providers will be willing to position themselves as the open data hub of choice," Di Maio wrote in a Jan. 30 blog post, "alpha.data.gov can show the path, raise awareness and ultimately help governments move from being pure providers to being actual consumers of open data."

Public feedback on alpha.data.gov is encouraged via @ProjectOpenData on Twitter, and front-end designers and developers are encouraged to collaborate on the project through Github.

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