If you visit data.gov, you’ll find a wide array of new, high-value datasets that federal agencies have uploaded pursuant to the Open Government Directive. This information serves two valuable functions. First, it facilitates private innovation by allowing entrepreneurs, scientists, and others to utilize raw data to build new services and conduct insightful studies that serve Americans. Second, citizens will also be able to use this data to hold government accountable—again, so it can better serve the people.
For example, the Department of Education posted two data sets that will enable parents to better understand education outcomes and financing. The TIMSS 2007 Public-Use Datafile is a school- based assessment that provides descriptive data on the educational outcomes of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science. And the CCD: School District Financial Survey collects data on revenues and expenditures for each public, elementary and secondary education school district in the United States. Releasing data like this allows parents and teachers to ensure that their tax dollars are being well used and to track the progress of American STEM education.
Another important example is the Medicare Part B Extract Summary System Data. This dataset from the Department of Health and Human Services provides detailed breakdowns of volume of physician services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and payments for those services by individual procedure code (e.g., by type of anesthesiology service, cardiology service, etc.). This data can be used to look at patterns of Medicare spending and analyze the types of services delivered to address the health needs of the Medicare population. Researchers and others used to have to pay to get this on a CD-ROM – now it can be downloaded for free at data.gov.
Here’s one last example of how we are helping you hold government accountable. The Social Security Administration posted two data sets – Hearing Office Average Processing Time Ranking Report and Hearing Office Dispositions Per ALJ Per Day Rate Ranking Report. They give you information on how long it takes different parts of the country to process social security adjudications. You’ll be able to tell how your area is doing, and give the Administration feedback and direction in that regard. And we hope you will.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform