…what government collected data could be made publicly available

By Micah Sifry, Editorial director, Personal Democracy Media (@Mlsif)

From government:

-what data is currently collected by every agency and could be made available for public re-use, engagement, etc. (four years after the Open Government Directive, we still don’t have this);

-the baseline metrics of public engagement with government agencies and services, online and off;

-the contact, address, and budget information for every government agency and elected official, down to the most local level, in digital form.

-the full size, budget and purview of the “national security” sector.

From the private sector:

-Who wants to open up their platforms to deliberate civic engagement, building on the organic civic uses that now happen incidentally on their services (for example, people have created pages on Yelp rating local post offices and DMVs; Waze users post locations of potholes)

-Who wants to tweak their platforms to encourage a more educated public (for example, convert dumb interactive polls on news sites into interactive quizzes that push basic facts about government out)

From citizens:

-What questions does the public most turn to the government to get answers for? What tools would help members of the public answer those questions more effectively?

-Do you want to meet other citizens like you who share your concern or interest? If a government website offered you that opportunity, would you use it?

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2 thoughts on “…what government collected data could be made publicly available

  1. Ellie K

    “what data is currently collected by every agency and could be made available for public re-use, engagement, etc. (four years after the Open Government Directive, we still don’t have this)”

    Actually, we DO have this. There is a very nice website that was created on 24 Nov 2008, and completed by 2011, which lists all government data series currently available for public re-use and engagement. Each data series is classified by agency, in a nice, friendly taxonomy. It is accessible from a single landing page that loads lightening fast. The data is available in a variety of user-friendly formats to facilitate ease-of-use, including XML, for cordiality with .NET Framework 3.5 and above. There is documentation, as well as API’s extant for each series. This website was coded and maintained by a public-spirited citizen, unaffiliated with the government. The data is free for any one to use and access. Sadly, some of the data sources are no longer released by the government. However, other agencies, such as the Federal Reserve System, the NOAA, portions of Health and Human Services and the FAA are generously willing to share, in their traditionally collaborative way.

    I would be delighted to tell you about this database, but my prior comment was entirely removed, so I am reticent to be as forthcoming tonight.

    “What questions does the public most turn to the government to get answers for? What tools would help members of the public answer those questions more effectively?”

    There are numerous ways of gauging citizen interactions with government, such as number of citizen emails, phone calls, faxes received and responded to. Direct interaction by citizens with official government websites is also recorded, and should provide a fine basis for quantifying interaction. These existing sources could be used to establish:

    “baseline metrics of public engagement with government agencies and services, online and off”

    In addition, most official government websites offer blogs which allow and encourage readers to ask comments, or share thoughts. DARPA and the Department of Defense always publish reader comments. The Department of Labor, Labor Statistics (BLS) welcomes input from readers while developing beta versions of its services. Many government websites even use the Disqus comment system to interact with the public, which is great, to-date. There there is Google+, and Flicker! I am proud to be mutual friends with the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo on Flickr. The CIA generously posts historical content on Flickr. The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank would occasionally interact with the public on Twitter, though less so now.

    “For citizens: ‘Do you want to meet other citizens like you who share your concern or interest? If a government website offered you that opportunity, would you use it?'”

    Such websites already exist! They are well designed, although have not been used as much recently as during the earlier years of President Obama’s administration.

    “the contact, address, and budget information for every government agency and elected official, down to the most local level, in digital form.”

    This is also available, somewhat to my surprise. It is provided by an unexpectedly helpful government website, for the convenience of the general public. It is accessible by webpage, or download via PDF.

    If I, Ellie Kesselman, an impoverished, unemployed Jewish widow, isolated in the hinterlands of America, can discover such things, shouldn’t you? The blog of the Governance Lab at NYU is titled “If Only We Knew”. Now, you do! Or could, if you were willing to consider the input of rural, childless widows, instead of publishing three consecutive essay length comments by um… Mihaela Ulieru on your other posts. I am Mrs. Lisa E. Wells nee Kesselman. “Ellie Kesselman” isn’t evocative of “Davos man” (or woman, as the case may be), unlike Ms. Ulieru. Feel free to edit out any objectionable or excessively bitter and/or resentful content. I can provide you with many more answers, should you be interested. I am easy to find!

    Reply

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