5 Ideas on Project Open Data

I’ve been blogging about my ideas on the various White House Innovation Projects (see blogs on Project MyGov & RFP-EZ) and they’ve gotten good responses.

So on to Project Open Data Initiatives

Stimulating a rising tide of innovation and entrepreneurship that utilizes government data to create tools that help Americans in numerous ways – e.g., apps and services that help people find the right health care provider, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on electricity bills through smarter shopping, or keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled.


This initiative I think is one of the most fully developed. There’s been a robust amount of work on open data the last few years from advancement of data.gov and open data communities like health (with it’s awesome Health Data Palooza). Specifically, this team is focused on “scale the Health Data Initiative and roll out new open data initiatives in the energy, education, public safety, and nonprofit sectors.”

So here’s my 5 ideas on these initiatives:

1) Focus on CFC data – I think it would be fascinating for the nonprofit sector to look at CFC data for a couple reasons. The Combined Federal Campaign is the largest charity campaign in the world ($6 billion raised since 1961). It is run by federal government so they should have easy access to the data that’s already reported in a few basic formats.

And most importantly there is a real need for apps and tools to help navigate through making sense of all the CFC information. Would be awesome for a hackathon, datapalooza (maybe even an internal one amongst current feds and CFC coordinators)

2) Meet Demand Thresholds – The WeThePeople app has a threshold where if you get 25,000 signatures your submission will get a response. On data.gov, it would be great if there was a tool where you can ask for a certain data set and if you get X number of people who want it to – an agency would have to respond within 10 days (with the default being to make data available in that time, and if not have a clear reason why)

3) Education Data – This one is interesting as there’s a huge demand for education data (my favorite of open data website is greatschools.org as they’ve been using for years education data to help parents make decision).

There’s actually an ecosystem of companies, academics, and activists who want this data – so tap into that. An even more interestingly is there’s 2 competing companies that hope to build APIs for education data – both from prestigious incubators – Y Combinators’s Clever and Code for America’s LearnSprout. I’d make sure to tap into those existing companies and help facilitate and accelerate the interest that’s already unfolding.

4) Start a new initiative in acquisition data – I’ve mentioned thisbefore but there’s a ton of acquisition data that could be used to build new tools and resources to help acquisition professionals if brought together in challenges and hackathons. A lot of great data has been released in good formats but other important data (like labor rates are buried in PDFs). Already another WH Innovation project (RFP-EZ) has improved some data by creating APIs of EPLS and DSBS – would be great to get PPRS, CPARS, FDPS as well as pricing information from GSA Advantage

5) Bridging FOIA and Open Data

Every day government agencies respond to tons of FOIA requests to release information.

Tons of money is spent meeting these requests – how can we leverage this with the open data movement?

Every FOIA document that is sent out should be put on the open data portals – saves time (not answering the same request 50 times) plus it opens up interesting data that 1 person knew to ask that others may use (but don’t even knew to ask).

Some of this is already occurring in the data section of FOIA.gov(see Steve Jobs FBI file on FOIA.gov) but a stronger process and integration around this would be amazing. Check out mySociety’s “WhatDoTheyKnow” for an example tool for submitting FOIA and making answers default public

There’s my 5 ideas – what’s your idea?

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Profile Photo Scott Primeau

Today, the House Subcommittee Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade had a hearing titled “Where the Jobs Are: There’s An App for That”. The hearing background memo shared some incredible numbers, such as predicting the app economy to reach $76-100 billion in the next three years.

By making data available, government can support this growing part of the economy. Government doesn’t need to build apps. Government just needs to get the data out and suppor the experts who can make it useful.

The full hearing is available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/where-jobs-are-there’s-app.

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