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White House Unwraps Open Data Community

Data.gov forums invite people to share ideas and best practices about making government data more accessible.

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The White House has launched an online community on its Data.gov site inviting people to share ideas for how the federal government can provide more open access to data.

The Open Data Community went live on Monday and includes forums on a variety of topics -- including best practices, the balance between openness and security, and how to grow an open data community -- as well as blog posts from U.S. government officials about open data.

Other forums invite people to speak their minds about policies for international data sharing, exploring semantic technologies, and whether governments should adopt existing standards or create new ones for data sharing.

The White House hopes a wide array of people interested in the open data debate -- including policymakers, technologists, data owners, and average citizens -- will use the site to make recommendations for sharing data and creating policies for government transparency, according to the site.

The Obama administration also is inviting technology-savvy participants to create an application or mashup to make data the government shares on Data.gov more easily accessible or understandable.

Indeed, while there is certainly no shortage of information available on Data.gov, the administration has been criticized for the site's accessibility and usefulness. At the Gov 2.0 conference in September, Ellen Miller, executive director of open government advocacy group the Sunlight Foundation, called the site a "mediocre" data repository.

The White House 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 currently are 305,692 data sets available on Data.gov, and new ones are being added all the time. In the last 60 days, agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the General Services Administration, added 33 new data sets to the site.

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