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Data released via the Open Government Directive has been put to good use

by PolicyFellow

Policy Fellow Matt Rumsey wrote this post. 

As part of its Open Government Directive, the Obama Administration took steps to make a wide variety of federal data publicly available online. The Open Government Progress Report, released in December 2009 lists open government projects and transparency milestones that support the goals of the OGD. Included among these are a number of important data-sets.

These data-sets have been utilized by journalists, bloggers, organizations, and citizens. They have informed investigative stories and think tank reports, contributed to unique and useful visualizations, inspired projects dedicated to helping the American public make better use of data, and helped to shine sunlight on previously hidden areas of government.

As part of the OGD, the Department of Treasury released IRS Statistics of Migration Data. The data tracks how tax return filers moved around the country and has helped illustrate migration patterns through space and time. The data has been well utilized by a variety of sources. Forbes took the data and created an attractive and easy to use interactive map. Nielsen found that migration from the Northeast to the South and Southwest was correlated with underwater mortgages, while Ad Age focused their analysis on the migration of people as well as money. Additionally, Brookings Institution scholar William Frey used the data as part of a report on recent shifts in migration trends.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration began to publish employer-specific information about occupational fatalities. This data, intended to help employers identify dangerous conditions and "take steps to improve safety and prevent future accidents," has also allowed investigative journalists to expose unsafe conditions and tell heartbreaking stories. The Center for Public Integrity and Huffington Post took advantage of the OSHA data in a series of articles that expose unsafe working conditions.

Data posted on recovery.gov proved useful in a number of ways.  It allowed interested parties access to information to assess stimulus programs. Data available on the site contributed to reporting on the collapse of Solyndra, helped bloggers in Wisconsin outline benefits to their state, and allowed academics to create novel tools to analyze individual stimulus projects. The nature of recovery.gov also made it easy for critics to weigh in on the shortcomings of the tracking process itself, by identifying areas where data is missing or incomplete.

Data.gov, a central repository for Federal government information, has attracted millions of viewers and inspired major cities, several states, and even other countries to launch sites of their own. Information in the database was used to create some unique and useful applications. AnalyzeThe.US aims to "enable anyone to develop an intuitive picture of the complex flow of resources, money, and influence that affect how our government functions."  Similarly, DataMasher pulls from data.gov and other sources and allows users to compare state level data on various issues.

This post represents a small sampling of the ways that data released via the OGD has been used.  It has proved to be a valuable resource for journalists, researchers, and average citizens.