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Opening Up Our Data

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel released the federal government’s new digital strategy which aims to shift the way government information is accessed and consumed. Instead of focusing on producing a final product, which has been common practice for years, the government will now be making content more accurate, available and secure. One major tool in the information technology tool box being used to achieve this goal is the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). 

An API is a set of tools for building software applications. But more importantly, an API makes information more accessible. This is important for two reasons.

First, the use of APIs makes it easier to replicate government information across more places than ever before. APIs enable automatic updates of information when content is syndicated on other websites, while reducing actual person hours currently spent manually updating content.

Second, APIs make information and data easily available to developers, who can create Web and mobile applications that make information increasingly more useful to the public. We have already seen the benefits of liberating vast amounts of data through the Department of Health and Human Service’s Open Government Health Data Initiative, hundreds of applications like My Cancer Genome, HealthGrades, Archimedes’ IndiGO, and the Healthy Communities Network which have been developed for individuals, communities and service providers. HHS has been liberating vast amounts of its data, many of which have APIs and are on HealthData.gov.

As the government changes the way it does business—making content and Web APIs the new default—government information and data will be more open, accessible and useful for the public. This strategy will open doors for communication and give everyone the opportunity to use government information in a more meaningful way.

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Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
Have been teaching a doctoral level course data available and survey items on national surveys and can attest that it would be helpful to have more access to the survey items in addition to the results. [name removed for privacy]
Submitted by Anonymous on
Making the information truly accessible will be a challenge. I consider myself data and tech savvy and I've had a hard time accessing Census data through the new government portals designed to be more open and accessible by the public. Make sure you have regular people testing things and giving feedback along the way!!!!
Submitted by Anonymous on
Making information more accessible is vital to the public. We live in a digital/information age where the Internet is constantly leveling the playing field for knowledge, access to content, and information. Implementing a "digital strategy" helps make government more open to the masses.
Submitted by Anonymous on
We deffinately need a place to find all sites for health care resourses. The new health plan tells us things but doesn't tell us where to find it ie. help.
Submitted by Anonymous on
I hope that soon you will offer a "live" list of Medicare Opt-Out providers in an electronic format. The process of manually creating this from several dozen individual web-sites - all using different formats - is almost impossible. There are subscription services out there, but the pricing gets into the tens of thousands - yikes! Thank you.
Submitted by Anonymous on
How about info on insurance for the uninsured. Also ADA info could be disseminated.
Submitted by Anonymous on
It would be wonderful to be able to drill down to county and city/town data and compare them to state and national data.
Submitted by Anonymous on
This is good news for techies but would love for you to expand on how this benefits the average joe (because no doubt it does!). 'Liberating data' is good pr but explaining how it can and will change lives by getting more people (public and NOW private sector) individuals using accurate data/ content sets to produce products to make our lives better, safer, and more Healy seems like a more important message. Maybe less catchy but more clear, I think anyways.
Submitted by Anonymous on
When you say content, are you saying words? Whole pages or paragraphs? I think it's a cool concept but I get worried about losing context. Sounds like a big initiative and a large amount of work, I hope you're prepared to pull it off.
Submitted by Anonymous on
This is all sounding wonderful, however as more information becomes exclusively "Online" what the government doesn't seem to realize is that MANY citizens have yet to have internet options and access. It is not available yet in so many areas, and what is available is dial up, which is so slow that there is no chance in accessing most websites. Let's FIRST make sure everyone has an opportunity to access the internet, then they can chose to do so if they want. But at this point, many don't even have the option.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Taking the mystery out of government information is a good thing.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Terric! Cost effective and much more productive. Thanks for sharing information in a timely manner
Submitted by Anonymous on
This is wonderful. Gives me instant access to information I could never get before.
Submitted by Anonymous on
The problem is that nearly no one who might need this information has access to staff who can use APIs. The public sector is at a huge disadvantage in attracting those individuals who have the skills to us the APIs for the data that administrators and policymakers need.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Making information more acessible and more secure makes no logical sense. Information is going to have to be either more secure and less accessible or more accessible and less secure. Can't be both. Good luck with that.