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Data.gov and the Developer

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The response to our Save the Data campaign has been phenomenal. Although the Electronic Government Fund has been cut from $34 million to $8 million in the compromised budget, we can take solace in the fact that members of Congress are indeed listening to us.

A particular question has been popping up again and again: Is Data.gov worth saving? Sunlight's answer, not surprisingly, is a resounding yes. The impact of Data.gov is broad. For those of us who write software, Data.gov acts as a strong foundation that we can build upon. In fact, many of us have done just that.

Two years ago, Sunlight Labs held Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge, resulting in 47 entries. Peruse through our blog archive to read all about it. Some highlights: Federal Register 2.0 started off as an entry called GovPulse, and is now the official site for the Federal Register. The overall winner, DataMasher is still being used to uncover interesting insights using government data. I check out Quakespotter whenever there's news of an earthquake around the world.

Beyond the Apps for America contest, there's Y Combinator-funded FlightCaster. It uses government data to create an incredibly valuable service in predicting delayed flights. Think you can do better? You'll still need to start with data from the FAA, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and NOAA. Has the earthquake in Japan piqued your interest about radiation levels at home? Data.gov links you to data collected by the EPA.

By acting as a data clearinghouse for the federal government, Data.gov makes discovery of data sources an order of magnitude easier than relying on a Google search or navigating a government agency's website. Software developers want to write code and build things. Data.gov helps them get to that point faster. It needs to be saved.