By GCN Staff


Not just for analysis, visualizations support transparency

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, oil gushed into the water faster than agencies could respond.  And the problem wasn’t just stopping the leak, it was informing the public about extent of the damage and progress on fixing it.

“The public imaging of this really wasn’t a home run for the Coast Guard at day one,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, admitted in a recent keynote address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So the Coast Guard worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration to develop the Emergency Response Management Application (ERMA), an online mapping tool that integrates both static and real-time data in an easy-to-use format for environmental responders and decision makers.

By putting the data “out on the Internet,” Zukunft said, “people could navigate through it and not wait for the next CNN news cast” to find out what was happening with the oil spill.

Before long, the joint mapping application exploded.  “[W]ithin 12 hours we had 200,000 hits…The next day it was two-and-a-half million.  And then the public trust level went up as transparency of information went up as well,” he said.

The application was subsequently adapted for oil Alaskan oil spills in 2012. 

"Arctic ERMA builds on the lessons we learned on usability, data management and data visualization from the Deepwater Horizon/BP disaster," said Amy Merten, then with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration.

Beyond visualization of oil spills, NOAA’s Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration and Reporting tool, or DIVER,  manages and integrates data from the myriad sources that collected information during the five years following the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“NOAA pledged from the start of the Deepwater event to be as transparent as possible with the data collected,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan.  “The DIVER data warehouse approach builds upon that original pledge and is another significant step in making NOAA’s environmental data available for the research community, resource managers and the general public.”       

Posted on Jun 22, 2015 at 1:41 PM0 comments

NSA using OpenFlow for SDN

NSA using OpenFlow for SDN

Even the National Security Agency is using software defined networking these days.

Bryan Larish, the NSA's technical director for enterprise connectivity and specialized IT services, spoke at the recent Open Network Summit in Silicon Valley, and said the intelligence agency is deploy an OpenFlow SDN for its internal operations. 

OpenFlow is one of the leading SDN protocols that allows centralized control and easy reprogramming of the packet-moving decisions on a network.

“We as an enterprise need to be able to control our network,” Larish told CIO.com. “OpenFlow centralized control seemed the only viable way to do this from a technical perspective. We are all in on OpenFlow.”

NSA is testing an OpenFlow SDN at both its main campus and branch offices, CIO.com reports. At NSA headquarters, the deployment is limited to a small section of the network for development.   The agency is also using OpenStack in its data centers, Larish said, and NSA is looking to other commercially available products to address its network integration and management needs.

Posted on Jun 19, 2015 at 9:04 AM0 comments

EPA compliance database expanded to address dirty air

EPA compliance database expanded to address dirty air

The Environmental Protection Agency has added air pollution information to its database of compliance history. With this upgrade, users can now view and compare air quality data and facility compliance information on one web page, as opposed to searching through four different websites and databases.

The addition of air pollution data to the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database gives users a way to combine data and facility compliance information from the Toxic Release Inventory, National Emissions Inventory, Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program and Acid Rain Program.

Users can search by location, facility type, environmental conditions, year, emission amount, pollutant type, and enforcement/compliance actions and violations. Subcategories exist as well, helping users find exactly what they need.

This new feature adds to a string of recent improvements to ECHO:

  • Dashboards featuring interactive graphs, charts and easy-to-analyze data have been added to illustrate facility compliance with pesticide information, as well as public water system violations and compliance data surrounding the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • ECHO widgets and web services allow developers to leverage data and reports into their own websites.
  • A new customizable mapping tool showing the compliance status of EPA-regulated facilities lets users create customized maps using current data.

Posted on Jun 15, 2015 at 9:32 AM0 comments

Charlotte updates Citygram with more open data

Charlotte updates Citygram with more open data

Citizens of Charlotte, N.C., can now get notices when rezoning plans are submitted for review, thanks to an upgrade to Citygram, a web app that notifies subscribers of non-emergency events. The added functionality is part of Charlotte’s ongoing efforts to increase government transparency and better connect citizens to city hall. According to the city, more than 200 subscribers have already received 65,000 notifications.

Originally developed in 2014 by a Code for America team working in Charlotte, Citygram leverages operational data from the city's Open Data Portal, a one-stop shop for information on transportation, community safety, neighborhoods and housing. Residents subscribe to topics on Citygram, and information is sent directly to them via text or email.

The service has expanded beyond Charlotte, and covers Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Lexington, Ky., as well.

As a city grows its library of datasets, Citygram can be updated to include them. According to Charlotte officials, possible additions may include 311 calls for service and street closures.

The Citygram project is now managed by the Code for Charlotte, a brigade of Code for America. The brigade was established following last year’s Code for America’s 2014 Fellowship program, in which technologists from the organization worked with the city to strengthen open government-citizen relationships.

Posted on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:37 AM0 comments

White House updating opengov roadmap

White House updating opengov roadmap

Open government advocates should put on their thinking caps as the United States plans its third National Action Plan (NAP), writes Corinna Zarek of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The first U.S. NAP was published in 2011. The second, published in 2013, is still being implemented through the end of 2015. The third NAP will expand on existing initiatives and address new ways to improve government transparency, accountability and response in the next two years.

Zarek calls on the public to suggest “expanded commitments” related to topic addressed by first two plans, such as public participation, open data, records management or natural resource revenue transparency. New ideas are also encouraged.

Suggestions for the plan can be sent to opengov@ostp.gov. Participants can also contribute ideas to a publicly available Hackpad that GSA is helping coordinate, Zarek said.

Posted on Jun 08, 2015 at 1:58 PM0 comments