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Census Releases Data Through New API

Agencies, businesses, and individual developers can create apps using census statistics on population, age, gender, race, education, occupations, and more.

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The Census Bureau has created an API that can be used by software developers to incorporate U.S. census data in Web and mobile applications.

Developers can use the API to tap into demographic information, housing statistics, and socioeconomic data drawn from two of the bureau's sets of statistics, the 2010 Census and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey. The API is available on a section of Census.gov for developers. The agency created a developers forum and app gallery as part of the effort.

The newly available data includes statistics on population, age, gender, race, household relationships, and owner/renter status. The American Community data set has details on education, income, employment, commuting, occupations, and housing characteristics from 2006 to 2010. Both data sets cover geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.

"We hope to see many apps grow out of the Census API, as this opens up our statistics beyond traditional uses," Census Bureau director Robert Groves said in a written statement.

In a blog post about the API and other changes coming in how the Census Bureau presents its data, Stephen Buckner, chief of the bureau's Center for New Media and Promotions, said the API "delivers on our commitment to create a platform for innovation by 'opening up our data.'"

Buckner said the release of census data is consistent with a "digital government" strategy announced by federal CIO Steven VanRoekel in May.

The Census Bureau shortly will be releasing its first mobile app, called America's Economy, Buckner added. The app will be available for Android and iOS devices and will provide access to key indicators drawn from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Office of Management and Budget demands that federal agencies tap into a more efficient IT delivery model. The new Shared Services Mandate issue of InformationWeek Government explains how they're doing it. Also in this issue: Uncle Sam should develop an IT savings dashboard that shows the returns on its multibillion-dollar IT investment. (Free registration required.)

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