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5/18/2011
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Data.gov Evolves From Repository To Cloud Platform

The White House has added new features to the website to transform it into an open-API-based foundation for building new services and applications.

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The White House had added new features to Data.gov in an effort to transform the site from a data repository to a cloud-based platform for creating new applications and services.

Originally conceived as part of the federal government's open-data push as a way to expose more data from the government to the public, Data.gov has evolved into more of a development and service-delivery platform, providing new ways for the public, developers, and the agency to plug into the site.

New features for the public, developers, and federal agencies are available as part of on the Data.gov Next Generation, a preview of which is available in a video posted online. The site does not give specifics on whether all of the new features are already available, and the Office of Management and Budget did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The government worked with a host of contractors to update the site, awarding a $46 million blanket purchase agreement to Alamo City Engineering Services, CGI Federal, Eyak Technology, Smartronix, and Qbase last year. Socrata, a subcontractor is providing data hosting services to Data.gov.

For instance, Socrata, a Seattle-based open data services company, is providing hosting for datasets on Data.gov, providing a secure, open platform that allows developers and federal agencies access to the data so it can be reused.

Socrata also is providing an open application programming interface (API) so developers can access the data sets, one of the new features aimed at allowing them to use the data in new applications. Socrata's technology also allows developers to serve data semantically, even if developers don't have semantic Web expertise, according to a video about the new features.

For the public, the next-generation site includes a new data catalog that can be browsed and searched by topic. Once people locate data, there are tools allowing them to visualize the data through charts and maps, or disseminate the information by quick links to social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Agencies also have new ways to use Data.gov more interactively. They can upload data from their own systems to the Data.gov cloud platform, link it in real time to data stored in their own networks, or federate data from their own sites, according to the site.

The government launched Data.gov in May 2009 as part of the Obama administration's Open Government Directive, which mandates that all federal agencies use technology to make their activities more transparent and engage more actively with citizens.

There are currently 389,681 raw and geospatial datasets available on the site, which has spawned 973 government applications and 236 citizen-developed apps, according to the site. Developers also have built 51 mobile apps using data from the site.

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