White House Begins Open Sourcing Data.gov - InformationWeek
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White House Begins Open Sourcing Data.gov

U.S. and Indian governments collaborate on Data.gov-in-a-Box, an open source version of the Obama administration transparency platform.

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The Obama administration has begun to open source pieces of the Data.gov platform and plans to launch a full-scale open source project early next year. This open data platform--called Data.gov-in-a-box--will allow other governments to easily stand up their own versions of Data.gov.

Data.gov developer and General Services Administration software architect Chris Musialek last Wednesday posted to open source development site Github some early test code for what appears to be a database management system and Web app that will serve as key pieces of Data.gov-in-a-box.

The release follows a September White House announcement that, as part of the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral government transparency effort that includes dozens of countries, it would take steps toward open sourcing Data.gov to make the platform available for other countries.

Data.gov-in-a-box will be co-developed by the United States and the government of India. This partnership was first mentioned in the Open Government Partnership plan, and in October, the Obama administration pledged $1 million to sharing open government best practices between the countries. Technical teams from the two countries have been working together on the project since August 2011.

"The U.S. and India are working together to produce an open source version [of Data.gov] available for implementation by countries globally, encouraging governments around the word to stand up open data sites that promote transparency, improve citizen engagement, and engage application developers in continuously improving these efforts," federal CIO Steve VanRoekel and federal CTO Aneesh Chopra said in a jointly authored blog post announcing the code release.

[ Learn the 9 Factors For A Successful Government IT Rollout. ]

Data.gov's clearinghouse of government information, launched in 2009, now has more than 400,000 datasets, most of them geospatial data. While the Data.gov concept has been lauded, open government advocates have been critical of its execution, complaining about the site's usability and the quality of datasets being released.

The site has also come under siege from budgetary constraints. Congress failed to fully fund for 2011 an Obama administration request that included Data.gov, and may further slash the open government budget in 2012. In a November statement to Congress, the Office of Management and Budget urged full funding for the e-government fund, which includes money for Data.gov.

Despite the mixed verdict on Data.gov itself, numerous domestic and foreign governments have launched open government platforms of their own since the release of Data.gov. The British government has an open government website and reportedly plans to announce an effort to open up even more data, while France just Monday launched data.gouv.fr, its own open government portal.

Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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