Data.gov gets an open-source revamp

The updated Data.gov site relies heavily on open-source software such as Solr, WordPress and CKAN

By , IDG News Service |  Cloud Computing

The U.S. government's portal for the data it creates, Next.Data.gov, is getting a revamp that should make it easier to view and reuse government data.

The update should also help federal agencies comply with a White House executive order issued in May to make government data machine-readable by default.

The beta version of the site, now available for user testing under a subdomain of Next.Data.gov, features more visualization of government data, an expanded section for communities of interest, and a stream of examples of government data usage by third parties.

"It looks different, and it is exciting that they are pulling in more information about how data is used and how people are talking about" government data, said John Wonderlich, policy director for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster greater government openness and transparency through the use of the Internet. "The first look is encouraging."

An early initiative from the Obama administration, Data.gov was launched in 2009 as a way to collect and provide a portal for data sets created by U.S. federal agencies, so they can be viewed and reused by the public.

In much the same way that the Defense Department's GPS (Global Positioning System) data has fueled the growth of geolocation-based businesses, so too should these additional government data sets generate new businesses, President Barack Obama has argued.

The site's popularity has steadily been growing. In May, it received 213,000 visitors, more than twice the number of visitors in May 2012.

Data.gov now offers more than 70,000 data sets, from 174 agencies and agency offices. It also offers almost 300 APIs (application programming interfaces) for agency services.

Data.gov's challenge is to ensure that "as much data as possible ends up there and that agencies take seriously the requirement that they are open with their information," Wonderlich said.

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