A Sneak Peek at Cabinet Department Open Government Projects


In the news coverage over the President’s Open Government Directive, two stories being overlooked are the release of an “Open Government Progress Report to the American People” and the announcement (in a press release) that every Cabinet department will launch new open-government projects, details of which will be made available tomorrow.

However, it appears that those details may be available now in Appendix II of the Report. Many of the projects look very interesting, and I’ve listed them all below. (The Report itself is worth reading, too, as it provides a great synopsis of what’s happened so far.)

Hardwiring Government Accountability 1. Department of Justice: Improving Access to Government Information—The Department of Justice is setting a transparency precedent for the rest of government by being the first to release its Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report in a machine-readable format. Annual FOIA Reports include detailed statistics on the number and disposition of FOIA requests, including response times, volume of requests, and personnel costs. As other agencies’ Annual FOIA Reports are also made available in this format, members of the public, including public interest organizations, scholars, and the media, will be able to track performance. Ultimately, increasing the usefulness of the FOIA processing data will also enable targeted outreach to agencies by the Department of Justice to ensure greater compliance with the FOIA government-wide.

2. General Services Administration: Making Advisory Committees More Transparent— Federal Advisory Committees provide guidance on a wide range of issues, such as climate change and national defense. Now, for the first time, the General Services Administration will make 12 years of Committee data available for free download on Data.gov, enabling the public to scrutinize a rich universe of information, including 11,430 individual committee records detailing $3.24 billion in related spending for 77,740 meetings and 11,317 reports. The data can now be “mashed up” to generate insight into the range of individuals and interests advising government.  Transparency to Spur Innovation and Entrepreneurship

3. Department of Interior: Fostering Energy Independence—For the first time, the Department of the Interior is making key government data about America’s hydropower resources available on a monthly basis. Timely information about the amount of raw energy generated through hydropower helps industry, academic researchers, and government work together to develop informed strategies for sustaining a dynamic and independent energy future for all Americans.

Transparency to Spur Innovation and Entrepreneurship

4. Department of Commerce: Spurring Innovation through Intellectual Property—The United States Patent and Trademark Office is committing to make all patents, published patent applications, and related materials even more easily searchable by the public online. The ability to sift through over 7,000,000 patents on useful inventions, design patents, and plant patents will enable entrepreneurs to find patents on which to found new businesses and discover improvements leading to original patentable products and services. With intellectual property-based businesses estimated to contribute nearly 40% of growth achieved by all U.S. private industry, the impact on jobs and the economy of more patent transparency is likely to be significant. As a step towards improved access to historical and current U.S. published patent data, the USPTO will begin by posting this data online for free download through a third party provider in the first quarter of calendar year 2010.

5. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy & the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: National Assets for High-Tech Economic Growth—Fledgling businesses need easier ways to identify and assess entrepreneurial opportunities that will create jobs and strengthen economic growth. Towards that goal, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Agricultural Research Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are increasing access to information on 1) new technologies available for commercial licensing, 2) Cooperative Research and Development (CRADA) awards and opportunities, 3) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards and opportunities, 4) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards and opportunities, and 5) projects sponsored through grants and contracts.

6. Department of Treasury: Showcasing Economic Trends in America—The Department of Treasury is releasing IRS Statistics of Migration Data for the first time. This will show migration patterns of tax return filers moving from county-to-county or state-to-state across the entire United States, including information on 1) number of returns (households), 2) number of exemptions (individuals), and 3) gross adjusted income (wealth). Demographers, state and local government officials, real estate developers, business planners, researchers and journalists can  use this never-before-available (without paying a fee) raw data to map migration over geography and time, mine for demographic/economic trends, and combine it with other high-value data sets to formulate and test economic theories. At the same time, Treasury is also releasing Office of Financial Stability Weekly Transaction Reports (which includes the TARP program) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activities, thereby improving transparency of federal bank supervisory activities as well as the investment activities of financial institutions.

7. Department of Energy: Advancing Clean Energy Technologies—As part of its efforts to promote clean energy technologies, the Department of Energy is launching an open-source platform (www.openei.org) to make DOE resources and energy data widely available to the public. In coordination with the National Laboratories, DOE will open access to a collection of free, evolving, and editable energy information that can be used by government officials, the private sector, project developers, and others to help deploy clean energy technologies across the country and around the world. The site houses more than 60 tools to help develop clean energy resources—including maps of solar and wind potential, building code information, and best practices. These public tools and data will help communities usher in a clean energy future, reducing energy use and creating green jobs locally.

Transparency to Safeguard Americans 8. Department of Homeland Security: Emergency Response—Virtual USA—a collaboration among the Department of Homeland Security, the emergency response community, and eight states across the nation—is an innovative information-sharing system that helps federal, state, local, and tribal first responders work with all levels of government to make fast, well-informed decisions. The system links these partners’ disparate tools and technologies in order to share the location and operational status of power and water lines, flood detectors, helicopter-capable landing sites, emergency vehicle and ambulance locations, weather and traffic conditions, evacuation routes, and school and government building floor plans, and does so without requiring any government entity to change either the system it now uses or the way it does business.

9. Department of Veterans Affairs: Hospital Report Card—To empower Veterans and the public at large to track quality, safety, and access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs is publishing hospital “report cards,” including raw data on care provided in outpatient and hospital settings, quality of care within given patient populations, and patient satisfaction and outcomes.

10. Department of Homeland Security: Improving Services for Immigrants & Better Immigration Policy—For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security will release raw data on the volume of applications to the United States Customs and Immigration Service field offices. This data can help immigration advocates understand trends and communicate expectations to their constituencies. In addition, by mashing the newly released data with statistics on population growth, demographic changes, and labor trends, researchers may be able to help DHS predict high volumes and plan for resource requirements to prevent slower processing times

11. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Tracking Quality of Federally-Assisted Rental Housing—The Real Estate Assessment Center conducts physical property inspections of public housing. HUD is releasing a full historical view of point-in-time property scores. Making http://www.whitehouse.gov/open these details available will enable researchers, advocacy groups, and the general public to 1) better understand the physical condition of the HUD-assisted housing stock, 2) hold providers accountable for housing quality, and 3) plan for future affordable housing needs.

12. Department of Defense: Safeguarding Voting Rights for America’s Armed Forces—The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) implements the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986, which permits members of the Uniformed Services and Merchant Marine, and their eligible family members and all citizens residing outside the United States, to vote in all federal elections. These data regarding voter success, participation rates, age, ranks, regional voting locations, home voting region, how the vote was cast (mail, fax, other), as well as survey data covering how voters and voting officials rated the effectiveness of absentee voting (effectiveness, ease, problems, etc.), as well as information on how voting districts actually per- formed in handling absentee votes (percentage counted, etc.), will now all be online at Data.gov.

13. Department of Veterans Affairs: Geographic Distribution of Expenditures—The National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics will release three years of raw data on estimated annual VA spending in each county and congressional district. The data represent payments to Veterans and dependents, services provided to Veterans, and general operating expenses. These data will be used by state and local Veteran agencies, Veteran advocacy groups, and the public to compare to and plan for local Veteran needs. Making the raw data available will enable its combination with local-population and veteran-related data, fostering new knowledge and improved services for Veterans.

Improving Quality of Life and Serving Citizens 14. Department of Labor: Keeping America’s Workers Out of Harm’s Way—For the first time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor is systematically publishing employer-specific information about occupational fatalities online. Employers with reported fatalities will have an incentive to take steps to improve safety and prevent future acci- dents. In addition, responsible employers will be able to use the database to identify dangerous conditions and take proactive precautions.

15. Department of Transportation: Improving Airport Information—The Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration will expand public access to its frequently- updated information on airport delays through an Airport Status Web Service registered on Data.gov. The Web service combines FAA’s information on ground delays, airport closures, ground stoppages, and arrival/departure delays with local weather provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide air travelers, and those waiting for them, with real-time updates on the status and causes of airport delays. Travelers and other users will be able to query status by airport. Responses will be available in multiple formats, so the information may be used in many interactive Web applications, allowing the data to be further combined with other user-generated information to provide new or enhanced products.

16. Department of Agriculture: Promoting a Healthier America—To unleash innovative approaches to improving the health of America’s children, the Department of Agriculture is releasing nutrition data for over 1,000 commonly consumed foods and launching a national competition for creative, mobile and web-based games. The competition will challenge entrepreneurs, software developers, and students to leverage the newly released data to develop games to help children make healthy eating decisions.

17. Department of Education: Assessing the Effectiveness of Federal Financial Aid Dollars—By publishing data about federal financial assistance provided to students and families through various loan, grant, and work-study programs, including recipient and volume data for each aid program by school, the Department of Education is enabling researchers, policymakers, and advocacy groups to combine this information with data on school performance. That in turn will help them analyze the comparative bang-for-the-buck of federal dollars at different colleges and universities.

18. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture: Protecting the Public Against Wildland Fires—Five agencies at the National Inter-agency Fire Center (NIFC), supporting the planning, coordination, and execution of a common wildland fire-fighting mission. Data about wildland fires are being made available to help the public, industry, academia, and government work together to develop and execute informed strategies for better protecting all Americans from wildland fires.

19. Department of State: Mapping Conflict in Darfur and Beyond—The State Department is releasing unprecedented new information about the conflict in Darfur from 2003 to 2009 and conflict throughout the entire continent of Africa in 2009. The first series of datasets depicts vil- lages confirmed to be damaged or destroyed in the Darfur region of Sudan between 2003 and August 2009. The second series of datasets, under the name “Africa: Conflicts Without Borders” includes tabular data and Geographic Information System (GIS) files that depicts sub-national and transnational areas of conflict in Africa in 2009, based on the location of conflict incidents, concentrations of internally displaced persons, and cross-border refugee camps and rebel bases in neighboring countries.

20. Department of Veterans Affairs: Veteran Population Model—The Veteran Population Model— using combined data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DoD), and Bureau of the Census—provides the official estimates and projections of the veteran population for each year from April 1, 2000, through September 30, 2036. Previously available only through predefined queries, access to the raw data will enable public and private-sector service organizations to incorporate VetPop data into their models to project future demand based on population and demographic estimates.