Data.gov: Pretty Advanced for a One-Year-Old

One year ago, data.gov was born with 47 datasets of government information that was previously unavailable to the public. The thinking behind this was that this data belonged to the American people, and you should not only know this information, but also have the ability to use it. By tapping the collective knowledge of the American people, we could leverage this government asset to deliver more for millions of people.

Today, there are more than 250,000 datasets, hundreds of applications created by third parties, and a global movement to democratize data. To date, the site has received 97.6 million hits, and following the Obama Administration’s lead, governments and institutions of all sizes are unlocking the value of data for their constituents.  San Francisco, New York City, the State of California, the State of Utah, the State of Michigan, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have launched data.gov-type sites, as have countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK as well as the World Bank.

From these datasets, citizens have developed hundreds of applications that help parents keep their children safe, let travelers find the fastest route to their destinations, and inform home buyers about the safety of their new neighborhood.  Never before have people been so empowered with the information they need to make decisions every day.

As I reflect on the 1st anniversary of data.gov, the most important accomplishment is the birth of a community of innovators that is helping change the way Washington works. 

In less than eight months, a team of students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed over 40 applications using data.gov.  These applications range from easily searching the roster of visitors to the White House and tracking foreign aid across the world to shining light on the ratio of debt to assets for bankrupt companies.

At the Sunlight Foundation, a community of developers continues to build on the Apps for America contest that brought us innovative apps that allow us to check wait times at airports, demystify the rule making process and empower people with the tools to mash up different datasets to unearth new insights. 

At the World Bank, recognizing the power of prizes to mobilize new and diverse talent, they are encouraging the development of applications that make innovative use of more than 2,000 data sets that document human development worldwide, including health, business, finance, environment, and social welfare statistics.

As we look to the next year, we recognize that the Web itself is evolving into a data platform and how important it is to link data from one agency to another or one country to another.  True value lies at the intersection of multiple datasets and what we are witnessing is a continued movement across the world to democratize data, but more importantly the explosion of applications created by the emergence of a community of innovators. 

So all you innovators out there – what data sets can we try to get out there to help you go further? Tweet your ideas for data we should try to put out with hashtag #datagov, and we’ll see what we can do in year 2.

Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer

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