Good discussion from the Microsoft Future Fed Blog:
Get Your Data, as a Service
Posted By : Phil West – Senior Technology Architect, Office of Civic Innovation
Data.gov turned 2 years old over the weekend. On the White House blog last week, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra wrote about how far Data.gov has come since starting on May 21, 2009. From 47 datasets on day one, it catapulted to 273,000 in the first year and 390,000 today. It has inspired 16 countries, 29 U.S. states and 11 U.S. cities – including New York and San Francisco – to create their own open data platforms.
Government organizations are recognizing the benefits of opening up data sets and sharing information, and we’re just now scratching the surface of what’s possible. There is still federal data that isn’t being shared amongst departments within agencies, or with other agencies that share similar missions. There is a huge opportunity to deduplicate data collection and management, and improve sharing of data to save internal costs and drive efficiencies. This starts with evaluating the data that currently exists, and then making it available and easy for interested parties to find. Let’s put it in the cloud so that citizens, developers, and even private sector organizations can take that data and use it in compelling ways. But this requires someone to “take ownership” of the data – manage it, curate it, and refresh it.
We call this new way of thinking, Data as a Service (DaaS). It’s similar to Software, Platform or Infrastructure as a Service (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS), in that it’s providing access to data on a subscription basis, as people or organizations need it. One of the biggest changes Data.gov has undergone over the course of its evolution is morphing from a government-run data repository to a portal that allows access to commercial partners that host relevant data sets. The General Services Administration (GSA) chose a solution that leverages Microsoft’s Azure DataMarket platform as one of the mechanisms of storing data in a public format in lieu of copying some spreadsheet off of Data.gov.
It’s getting more and more expensive for agencies to host large-scale repositories and frankly, that’s not a core competency of the federal government. Moving the data to Azure defers the cost from the agency’s data center to a Microsoft data center. This saves taxpayer money while still achieving the transparency goals that Data.gov was intended to support. Citizens can access the data at no charge, while commercial organizations could access the data for a small subscription fee, with a portion of the proceeds going to the agency that made the data available. That means that government agencies could stand to recover a portion of their expenditures and might even turn a profit if the data is popular (read: useful) enough.
Our goal when we built the Azure DataMarket was to create a dynamic marketplace and cloud-based delivery channel for high quality information, and we’re looking forward to using it to help government agencies increase citizen engagement while becoming more efficient and transparent. We’ve included analytics to help users locate data sets they may be interested in, which frees users from having to know exactly what they’re looking for. And Microsoft Windows Live users can get an Azure plug-in that enables them to search data, import the data to Excel and start doing analysis right away. Data.gov and DaaS are off to an impressive start. More people understanding their benefits could go a long way toward getting the most out of the program, and maybe even save it and other Gov 2.0 programs from recent, potentially program-ending budget cuts.
Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Microsoft is a proud partner of GovLoop. Check out Microsoft Federal on Twitter & Facebook.
Poll of the Week
Could your inbox use a little more awesome?
Sign up to get a daily dose of awesome gov-focused resources, trainings, blogs and articles to help you do you job better.