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Building-Blocks of a 21st Century Digital Government

Federal agencies are making great strides towards putting a solid foundation for a 21st Century Digital Government in place.

Today marks three months since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5) – as part of the President’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.

Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people. We must unlock rich government data, information and services so that everyone from citizen developers and private sector entrepreneurs, to our very own Federal agencies can help provide the American people with the access to these services “anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

Today agencies are making great strides towards putting a solid foundation for a 21st Century Digital Government in place.

For example, the Census Bureau recently released its first mobile app, called “America’s Economy,” and just today released an iOS version. The app mashes up Census data with economic statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides the latest economic indicators that drive business hiring, sales, and production decisions throughout the nation in real time. Economists, planners, business owners, and the public can use the app to get a quick and easy snapshot of the health of the U.S. economy, look at trends, and receive notifications when indicators change. But as powerful as the app is, just as powerful is the way Census is releasing the underlying data through its first publicly available application programming interface (API).

The Census API, which pulls from the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census, has yielded an unprecedented level of interest from citizen developers. Over 800 external developers have already accessed the API since its release, and users have generated over 24 million data requests. And as an indication of how valuable and accessible this data is, it took only 24 hours for the first third-party app to be developed and we are excited to see the many more applications that will be developed using this data.

This is just one example of the power of unlocking rich government data sets and services to the public and is exactly what the Digital Government Strategy is trying to accomplish. But it is just the beginning.

Today, every major Federal agency is posting candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months. While many focus on providing better services directly to the public, others focus on increasing internal government efficiencies to save taxpayer dollars. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is planning to develop a mobile app for its revenue agents that will allow them to accept a paper check from a taxpayer, take a picture, and automatically deposit it for posting to the taxpayer’s account.

You can link to each of the agency lists via, and I encourage you to weigh in on which candidates you think are the highest value. There, you can also find links to other recent products of the Strategy aimed at providing agencies with the tools they need to be successful and scaling existing best practices across government:  

  • A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) toolkit for agencies considering implementation of a BYOD program;
  • A report on how the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) standards and guidelines are evolving to meet the challenge of mobile security;
  • Recommendations on how agencies can stand up effective digital services governance structures; and
  • Performance measurements tools that will help drive data-driven decision making around the Federal web space.

It’s been a busy three months, and I look forward to adding more building-blocks in the months ahead as we continue to deliver on the President’s vision of a more modern, efficient, and accessible government for the 21st Century.