For decades, entrepreneurs have used government data from Global Positioning Systems, weather monitoring stations, and other sources to power their products and services. This synergy between freely available Federal data and entrepreneurial innovation has benefited both the American economy and American citizens.
This summer, the Obama Administration took a big step to strengthen this synergy by kicking off the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs top innovators from inside and outside government for intensive, six-month stints to help solve major challenges. Among other activities, the Program is advancing a number of Open Data Initiatives to liberate unprecedented volumes of government data related to energy, education, international development, public safety, and other key areas. The goal of these efforts is to connect the next generation of entrepreneurs and service providers to freely available government data, while rigorously protecting privacy.
Open Data Initiatives and projects already under way include:
During the past few months, hundreds of new datasets—and software tools that facilitate access to those datasets, including application programming interfaces, or APIs—have been added to online communities like Energy.Data.Gov and OpenEI.org. Dozens of entrepreneurial companies, like First Fuel, Simple Energy, and WattzOn, are already using some of these resources to develop useful tools for consumers, including customized approaches to saving energy and reducing electric bills. Upcoming challenge announcements will call for developers to use this growing array of public datasets to create new products that lower energy costs, improve energy efficiency, and protect the environment. Energy-related data resources already available include:
The Safety Data Initiative
Over the last four months, the Safety Data Initiative has grown into one of the largest multi-agency data efforts across the Federal Government, with 850 data sets ranging from worker safety tips to consumer product recalls. Among the new safety data resources recently made available are tools that provide real-time information during natural disasters and tips for improving preparedness and emergency response. The latest safety data are available at http://safety.data.gov/ and can serve as resources in the following challenges:
The Education Data Initiative
The Education Data Initiative is working to expand and publicize the availability of open educational data. Soon, for example, developers will be able to give students access to their own educational data—such as test scores and class grades—through the newly developed “MyData Download.” Education data can be found at ed.data.gov and app developers may want to check out the following links:
There are several other open data initiatives underway.
The U.S. Agency for International Development recently hosted a food security codeathon called “Hacking for Hunger” and is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to liberate even more data for international development applications. The Treasury Department is working to make Federal finance data more easily and widely available. And an array of health-related datasets, challenge competitions, and ideas have been made available through the Health Data Initiative website, under leadership of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Notably, the Blue Button for America team of Presidential Innovation Fellows continues to work with government, private, and public partners to help all Americans easily and securely download their own health information. Most Medicare beneficiaries and Veteran’s can already find their own health data at Blue Button.
To learn more about these projects, or to get involved in Open Data, please visit the Open Data Initiatives homepage, which provides email contacts and information on how to follow us on Twitter.
Aman Bhandari is a Senior Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer at OSTP and Raphael Majma is a Presidential Innovation Fellow based at OSTP.