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3/23/2011
03:51 PM
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Oregon Launches Open Data Web Site

The data.Oregon.gov site contains financial information about state expenditures, salaries, new businesses, and people in Oregon prisons.

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Oregon has launched an open data Web site, following the lead of the federal government and cities like New York and San Francisco, in an effort to promote more transparency about government records and information.

Fashioned similarly to other open-data sites but with its own innovations, Data.Oregon.gov lets people view data sets from government agencies; interact with that data by creating charts, graphs, calendars, and maps; and make suggestions for the release of data sets they find valuable, according to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, which unveiled the site (PDF) this week.

Data sets released on the site include financial information about state expenditures, employment salaries, and employment information. The site also includes data about new businesses registered in the state and lists of people who are housed in Oregon prisons.

One feature on the site that's different from the federal Data.gov site is the ability to post comments about data on the same page as the actual data set.

On the federal site, people are directed to a comments page to post their thoughts, while on Oregon's site they can comment directly within the data set via an interactive toolbar across the top of the page displaying data results. The toolbar also includes buttons that allow people to look at the data from different views, filter it, export it, visualize it, embed it, or read information about the data.

The site also allows industrial and civic Web developers to access any data set in real time so they can use the data to create new mobile Web applications, according to department.

While governments at all levels certainly have been proactive in giving people access to internal data via the Web, not all of their efforts have been deemed successful by critics. Moreover, Congress could soon pull the plug on funding for federal sites such as Data.gov, USASpending.gov, and the Federal IT Dashboard, according to an open-data advocacy group.

The federal open-data effort in particular has come under fire from that group, The Sunlight Foundation. Its founder and Executive Director Ellen Miller was on Capitol Hill about two weeks ago testifying before Congress about the inaccuracies found on the federal USASpending.gov site.

Only a few days later, the feds' own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, released a report (PDF) criticizing another open data site, the Federal IT Dashboard, for errors in information posted about federal IT projects.

Funding for these transparency sites and others could be cut if a the fiscal-year 2011 budget bill, passed by the House of Representatives in February and currently being considered by the Senate, becomes law, The Sunlight Foundation's Daniel Schuman wrote in a blog post.

He said that the Electronic Government Fund, which provides money for open-data sites, could be reduced from $34 million to $2 million for the remainder of this fiscal year if the bill is passed. In fact, it's been only the inability for Congress to come to a budget agreement that has kept these sites alive, Schuman wrote.

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