Do we need an official database of ALL government websites?

With Transparency Camp and OpenGovWest there is a lot of excitement brewing about an effort to establish an “open data set” on all government websites in the United States. This is in particularly targeted to making local government, including all those obscure special districts out there, far more accessible to the people online.

The public should be able to type in their address or click on a map and see ALL the government jurisdictions that represent/serve/tax them in one reliable swoop.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?

Big need? Little need?

What about going deeper into elected officials?

How might you reuse this data?

Join our online working group and check out the emerging project technical notes.

Steven Clift

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I wonder if GSA at least has the list of all federal websites.

One way to get at a lot of local govt websites is to contact a number of the companies that host hundreds and thousands of the gov’t websites.

Also assuming there are some crawlers that can help with execution.

Caryn Wesner-Early

Great idea! We’ve needed it for a long time. I’ll bet there is no list of all federal sites, let alone state, county, or city sites. It’ll be a huge project – good luck.

Steven Clift

Part of the baseline is the Census of Governments which in 2007 collected web information (a five year refresh doesn’t work though). It is the smaller governments which have the greatest variability in URLs. In recent weeks, Business.Gov came out with an API with 8,000 or so city and county websites which is a huge step forward. They are interested in crowd-sourcing options on updates and a number of non-profits are interested in helping and making sure that data and more is fully available for unrestricted public use.

Stacy Ryan might help or is at least a start.

This data can be reused by news media for article research and publications, elected officials for campaigning, campaign and lobby groups for support, schools for their class projects, homework assignments for research, citizen’s curiousity about current legislations, comparing cost of parking tickets by city (a joke, but I can see people doing it), etc.

Providing this may also create opportunities for social media venues and mobile application developers to exploit the information.

Of course, I am making these statements assuming government IT and website managers are willing to participate.

Jim Coliton

This might also be useful to Realtors or people researching the options for moving or buying a new home. Look up local taxes, schools systems, municipal services (trash days…) all from one portel.

Mayra Soto-Cubillos

Definitley a good idea. Not only could new comers use it as a source identifying:
-Public Transportaion accessibility
-Proximity to home, shopping, and eatery places
Recent grads could research job prospects, and knowingly apply to where they would like to work. I am surprised that someone has’nt already put such a database together. We already have with all of the job openings throughtout the government; and there is also the Central Federal Intern program database. I’m sure there will be more to come…

Dennis McDonald

While I suspect there will be some major definitional issues associated with defining what a “government website” is, having an official designation of what Federal government website actually is may help ensure that people can tell the difference between what’s “official” and what’s “not official.” This question of authority is really important in some instances. Figuring out a way to create an official list of some kind would be a part of the solution.

Dennis McDonald
Alexandria Virginia

Pam Broviak

I think this is a great idea – there must be some way the government could require all units of government to register their website address if they have one. We must already have to register an address for other purposes, and if so, all that would need to be changed is to require a Website address too. And I am sure each govt unit reports its govt officials to some agency after each election.

Pam Broviak

Sorry to post again, but I just was thinking it might be a good idea to reach out the Municipal Clerk’s association. Usually for local govt, the clerk is the official responsible for maintaining and reporting this information. They might have some suggestions or advice on building this data.

Firoze Lafeer

On in the “PermitMe” tool, we give users a hierarchy of local/state gov’t for their town/city/county. For example search for “Reston VA” like this: Reston VA Permits and Licenses and then look at “Step 3” of the results.

Of course, it would be great to expand the sites we know of beyond the 8,000. And it would be useful to support things like search by lat/lon for mobile use (“Where can I find land records for this place right here?”)