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Data.gov to be Open Sourced for World-Wide Deployment

The Plan

“The U.S. and India are working together to produce an open source version 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,” wrote US Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra in a post on the White House blog this morning. Independent Government 2.0 watchers appear to be cautiously optimistic about the move.

As part of the US Government’s joining the Open Government Partnership in September, along with seven other national governments from around the world, the US issued a plan that included the creation of an open source version of the United States’ Data.gov data portal and India’s India.gov.in document portal.

StevenVanRoekel-1.jpgThe first code offered is from Data.gov and provides a mechanism for similar sites to ingest data sets uploaded by users. That code is available on independent commercial code repository Github and is being watched by 26 developers at press time. The project team says the next release will be from the Indian side of the partnership and will concern website infrastructure. A complete package of source code will formally launch in early 2012 according to the program’s schedule.

Right: US Federal CIO and platform lover Steven VanRoekel.

Hopefully, open government data websites will spring up like weeds all over the world, at different levels of government and with meaningful support from government representatives. Other government developers and independent developers will then be able to access new sets of data programmatically that can serve as foundation or augmentation of new application development.

The Hope

Adriel Hampton, founder of Gov 2.0 Radio and lead organizer for CityCampSF, calls the partnership between the US and India groundbreaking.

“The partnership on open government technical infrastructure between the U.S. and India is groundbreaking in that it will help create data standards for governments of all levels. In the Gov 2.0 community, we’ve seen that increasing access to standardized data not only spurs business innovation, but it can greatly reduce the cost of research for NGOs and other third-sector groups working on issues like global warming, urban poverty and public education.

“I’m hopeful that this open source partnership at the federal level between two of the world’s economic powers will spur increased adoption of open data infrastructure and standards by cities both small and large. This is the major step towards benefits like consumer applications that interact well with government services whether in Hyderabad, Mexico City or Los Angeles, and in increased effectiveness of both government and private sector social spending.”

The Concern

Code alone is not enough, though, says O’Reilly Government 2.0 Washington Correspondent Alex Howard.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about what this news means for the world, particularly for the further validation of open source in open government.

“To rehash an old but important principle, Gov 2.0 is not about launching new ‘websites’ or ‘portals’ — it’s about Web services and an emerging global ecosystem of big data. There’s a growing international movement afoot worldwide to open up government data and make something useful with it. Civic apps based upon open data are emerging that genuinely serve citizens in a beneficial ways that officials may have not been able to deliver, particularly without significant time or increased expense.

“In this context, Gov 2.0 isn’t simply about setting up social media accounts, moving to grid computing or adopting open standards: it’s about systems thinking, where open data is used both by, for and with the people. If you look at what the Department of Health and Human Sevices is trying to do to revolutionize healthcare with open government data in the United States, that approach may become a bit clearer.

“For that to happen, countries, states and cities have to stand up open government data platforms. There are bedrock issues for open government around the globe that no technology solution in of itself will address. Simply opening up data and standing up a platform is not a replacement for a Constitution that enforces a rule of law, free and fair elections, an effective judiciary, decent schools, basic regulatory bodies or civil society, particularly if the data does not relate to meaningful aspects of society.

“With this step forward from the U.S. and India, however, the prospects for stimulating more economic activity, civic utility and accountability under a global open government partnership is now brighter.”

“Ambitious but largely defunded open government data platform Data.gov is now working with counterparts at India’s National Informatics Centre to offer an open source body of code known as the Open Government Platform or “Data.gov-in-a-Box.”



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