Democratizing Government Data Data Science Stories

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Vivek Kundra and Data.gov increase innovation and transparency in the federal government

An open flow of government data empowers citizens, enabling them to directly engage with the enormous amounts of data the federal government produces. Since 2009, Data.gov has served as a clearinghouse for the federal government’s gov 2.0 initiatives.

The site is home to over 370,000 raw and geospatial datasets from 172 agencies and subagencies, and provides a portal to 230 citizen-developed apps built upon the underlying data. It aims to "increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government" and serve as "a repository for all the information the government collects" that is not deemed private or classified. Data.gov presents an unprecedented opportunity for citizens to collaborate with the federal government and find innovative uses for its enormous caches of data. The data released through Data.gov reaches across the web and into our living rooms, from innovative web apps such as Datamasher to the public health “war room” featured on Jamie Oliver’s ABC series, "Food Revolution".

“ Transparency through technology presents a real opportunity to begin controlling spending, simplifying the bureaucracy and regaining the confidence of the American people.”

Those successes can be credited to the leadership of Vivek Kundra, the first Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States of America. After he successfully introduced open source and cloud innovations to the District of Columbia’s IT infrastructure as the district’s CIO, Kundra was tapped by President Barack Obama in March 2009 to increase transparency, efficiency and innovation within the federal government’s technology infrastructure. Data.gov was one of Kundra’s first projects at the federal level, an initiative to further democratize government data and encourage participatory democracy. The leadership and innovation demonstrated by Data.gov filtered down to the state and city levels, inspiring similar initiatives in California, Utah, Minnesota and Michigan, and cities such as San Francisco and New York City. Kundra was instrumental in the US Open Government Directive of December 8, 2009, which required that each federal agency identify and publish at least three high-value data sets online and submit them to Data.gov.

Despite the uncertain future of these transparency sites, Kundra and his efforts are setting a significant precedent in the federal government. Vivek Kundra is the recipient of the Visionary Data Hero Award, for his efforts to transform how citizens access and interact with government data. Projects such as Data.gov demonstrate big data’s potential to increase transparency while enabling engineers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens to reimagine how we engage in participatory democracy.

 

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