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Feds Release APIs For Tapping Government Data

Department of Labor goes further by releasing software development kits to help build Web and mobile applications.

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The federal government has released new software code and resources to let developers access data to create new applications as part of its ongoing open-data transparency effort.

The Federal Register has released the application programming interface (API) for FederalRegister.gov, which allows developers to retrieve data from the website for reuse.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has gone several steps further, launching what it's calling a "first of its kind" website specifically devoted to allowing software developers to take department data and incorporate it into Web and mobile applications.

The Federal Register is the official daily newspaper of the federal government and traditionally has been the primary source of new federal rules and regulations. The open source API for the site was designed to be particularly developer friendly, according to a Federal Register blog post.

To that end, the API is pre-processed and requires no API keys--developers need only an HTTP client or browser to use it, according to the post. It also supports a range of standard and widely used protocols, including JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) for data transfer and Representation State Transfer, or REST, for client/server development.

The DOL's API website project is aimed at making it easier for developers to "access and use the data collected by the department and to increase public participation in government and increase government transparency," according to information on the site. "We hope to foster a supportive community for the developers and we encourage greater public use of the data and APIs."

In addition to APIs, the site also offers software development kits (SDKs) to help developers build applications for the data they're accessing. Included on the site are SDKs for building BlackBerry, Apple's iOS, and Android mobile applications, as well as a .NET SDK for building to Microsoft's platform.

"While a handful of other federal agencies are making data available through one or more APIs, the inclusion of SDKs is a federal first," said Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris in a statement.

He said the inclusion of tools for developers lowers "the technical barriers" and allows developers of all experience levels build applications by using DOL data. The DOL plans to update the site with new information and resources weekly, it said.

The Obama administration has maintained an open data policy since the beginning, launching numerous projects and websites to share more government data with the public. The federal data repository Data.gov is one of them; the recently turned 2-year-old site includes thousands of sets of federal data that developers have accessed and used to create applications for both the web and mobile devices.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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