White House to open source Data.gov as open government data platform

White House to open source Data.gov as open government data platform by Alex Howard.

From the post:

As 2011 comes to an end, there are 28 international open data platforms in the open government community. By the end of 2012, code from new “Data.gov-in-a-box” may help many more countries to stand up their own platforms. A partnership between the United States and India on open government has borne fruit: progress on making the open data platform Data.gov open source.

In a post this morning at the WhiteHouse.gov blog, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel (@StevenVDC) and federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (@AneeshChopra) explained more about how Data.gov is going global:

As part of a joint effort by the United States and India to build an open government platform, the U.S. team has deposited open source code — an important benchmark in developing the Open Government Platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites.

The development is evidence that the U.S. and India are indeed still collaborating on open government together, despite India’s withdrawal from the historic Open Government Partnership (OGP) that launched in September. Chopra and VanRoekel explicitly connected the move to open source Data.gov to the U.S. involvement in the Open Government Partnership today. While we’ll need to see more code and adoption to draw substantive conclusions on the outcomes of this part of the plan, this is clearly progress.

Data.gov in a boxThe U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government, which represents the U.S. commitment to the OGP, included some details about this initiative two months ago, building upon a State Department fact sheet that was released in July. Back in August, representatives from India’s National Informatics Center visited the United States for a week-long session of knowledge sharing with the U.S. Data.gov team, which is housed within the General Services Administration.

“The secretary of state and president have both spent time in India over the past 18 months,” said VanRoekel in an interview today. “There was a lot of dialogue about the power of open data to shine light upon what’s happening in the world.”

The project, which was described then as “Data.gov-in-a-box,” will include components of the Data.gov open data platform and the India.gov.in document portal. Now, the product is being called the “Open Government Platform” — not exactly creative, but quite descriptive and evocative of open government platforms that have been launched to date. The first collection of open source code, which describes a data management system, is now up on GitHub.

During the August meetings, “we agreed upon a set of things we would do around creating excellence around an open data platform,” said VanRoekel. “We owned the first deliverable: a dataset management tool. That’s the foundation of an open source data platform. It handles workflow, security and the check in of data — all of the work that goes around getting the state data needs to be in before it goes online. India owns the next phase: the presentation layer.”

If the initiative bears fruit in 2012, as planned, the international open government data movement will have a new tool to apply toward open data platforms. That could be particularly relevant to countries in the developing world, given the limited resources available to many governments.

What’s next for open government data in the United States has yet to be written. “The evolution of data.gov should be one that does things to connect to web services or an API key manager,” said VanRoekel. “We need to track usage. We’re going to double down on the things that are proving useful.”

Interests which already hold indexes of government documents should find numerous opportunities when government platforms provide opportunities for mapping into agency data as part of open government platforms.

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