BarCampDC2 - Open Government Data

Apps for Democracy

The very first session I attended was moderated by Peter Corbett from iStrategyLabs and Dmitry Kachaev of the Office of the CTO for DC talking about open data from the government.

The Princeton research paper "Government Data and the Invisible Hand" proclaims the need for government agencies to first and foremost share their data via open and broadly used standards (via Ars Technica).

The DC government is already sharing a large amount of data via a variety for formats: GeoRSS, KML, CSV, Shapefiles. Check it out at and also CapStat: Building a City That Works

Information. Knowledge. Progress. Welcome to CapStat, your resource as a District of Columbia resident to track how District Government is working for you. You can use these pages to track the performance of individual agencies, find neighborhood statistics and learn how your government is responding to the city's most pressing challenges. As the District of Columbia works to become a world-class city, visit this page to follow its progress and find out how you can become part of the solution.

When the Office of the CTO for DC wanted to update their site and services they brainstormed how to do this - the typical method of hiring a very expensive contractor to build a complicated tool that would be poorly implemented - or open up the system for the community and see what emerges.

Fortunately they chose the latter and recently launched Apps for Democracy - a contest that anyone can submit an entry for a mashup or application using the DC data services.

Data stream of data

One comment that came up was the desire for a feed of the available data and updates. Right now there is a web page and some of the data is available as GeoRSS - so continually updated. However, what would really be great and facilitate federation would be a published GeoRSS feed of datasets that links to each of the available formats, updated times, filesizes, metadata, etc.


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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.