Building Apps and Services for Financial Empowerment

(This article is cross-posted on the Treasury Notes blog)

Treasury recently hosted a Finance Data Working Session to brainstorm new uses and applications of government data that would help empower consumers.  At the session, which was convened as part of Treasury’s broader Finance Data Initiative, over 50 entrepreneurs discussed dozens of ideas for new features, products, services, and apps that use government data to help American consumers make informed choices.  By the end of the day, workshop participants narrowed down these ideas to a set of nine projects that show promise for helping Americans manage their finances, plan for retirement, and make more effective financial decisions. 

At the working session, entrepreneurs and software developers volunteered to build the following ideas into prototypes and working applications in the coming months:

  • Degree Tree – A tool to help students decide where to go to college and how to finance their education by comparing outcomes associated with choosing different degrees, institutions, and financing options.
  • Mortgage Dream Team – A platform to help consumers compare mortgage brokers and find lower rates and better deals onmortgage loans.
  • Take Control of Your Retirement – A service to help employees and employers better understand their retirement and investment options and understand their paths to retirement.
  • Real-Time Small Business Data – A platform to empower small businesses by making it easier for those businesses to find real-timedata about individual firms as well as data on financing and lending decisions within their industry.
  • Consumer Complaint Alerts and Analytics – A prototype for a service that would help consumers detect erroneous and fraudulent charges on their credit cards.
  • Consumer Debt Eraser – A tool to give people feedback about how long it would take to pay off their debt under differentscenarios.
  • Connect My Data – A prototype for a secure platform that would allow consumers to access their own personal data and send that data to trusted third parties.
  • HowIGive.org – A platform to allow people to make real-time charitable donations, selectively share information about how they donate, and find out how they compare with other people in terms of their charitable giving.
  • Investor ID / EZ-Invest – A prototype for a tool that would make it easier to verify the status of investors based on their income and net worth.

The idea of using government data to help consumers is not just aspirational.  Open government data already plays an important role in existing apps and services that consumers can use today.  Entrepreneurs have used government data to allow people to spot suspicious charges on their credit card bills, understand fees associated with their 401(k) plans, and receive advice on managing investments.  In addition, entrepreneurs have used government data to help people obtain loans when they are starting up a small business.  Government data that is being used to fuel these apps and services can be found in Treasury’s Finance Data Directory, an online resource for more than 50 key finance data sets published by Federal agencies.

As underscored by the enthusiasm and energy on display at Treasury’s working session, finance data sources stand to empower even more Americans to manage their finances and assert control over their financial lives.  The event and Treasury’s broader Finance Data Initiative are key parts of this Administration’s ongoing work to catalyze innovation that harnesses the power of open data to improve thelives of Americans. 

If you would like to be a part of these efforts, or if you have new ideas for new services and applications using finance data, please let us know by sending an email to financedata@treasury.gov or tweeting @USTreasury with the hashtag #financedata.

Nicholas Bramble is a Presidential Innovation Fellow in the Office of Consumer Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury 

Nick Sinai is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer at OSTP

 

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