Apps for America 2 finalists announced

A more digestable Federal Register and other nifty government data-based apps showcased

Sunlight Labs has announced the three finalists for the second iteration of its Apps for America contest.

The Apps for America 2 competition, which was announced in May, was launched to encourage people and organizations to create applications that repurpose data in the Data.gov registry so it can be more widely used by citizens.

These finalists were picked from a total of 47 submissions. All of the submissions, and the finalists in particular, show how government datasets can be mixed and formatted in a way that makes them more easily accessible and understandable.

One of the finalists is GovPulse.us, assembled by developers at the educational nonprofit research organization WestEd. GovPulse reorganizes the information published in the daily Federal Register, the government's official journal for agency notices and proposed regulations.

The Government Printing Office offers the online version of the Federal Register, though it is accessible only by a search function. The National Archives also offers a front-end to this material, where entire issues can be accessed.

GovPulse reorganizes the Federal Register in different ways to make access easier. It has separate sections for recently opened and soon-to-be closed comments, as well as sections devoted to each agency. It also provides a table of contents for the current daily edition of the publication. Each item in the daily edition gets its own page, with a contact information included in a sidebar, as well as a map of any places that are mentioned.

"GovPulse parses [the Federal Register] and gives you a way to browse the tens-of-thousands-of-pages-long register by agency, category or date. What's also compelling about it is the visualizations and analysis the software does on top of the register," Sunlight Lab head Clay Johnson wrote in the blog item announcing the finalists.

The second finalist is ThisWeKnow.org, developed by a team of developers from data analysis firm GreenRiver.org, Web design shop Sway Design and the semantic web database company Intellidimension. On this page, users can type in ZIP codes or town names, and the site will return a list government information pertinent to that region.

The page pulls information from Data.gov, as well as legislative data from GovTrack.us, geographic cross-referencing from GeoNames, and a version of the 2000 U.S. census rendered in the Resource Description Framework format by Joshua Tauberer.

"The depth of information in the site is incredible," Johnson noted.

The third finalist is a site called DataMasher, developed by nonprofit marketing firm Forum One Communications. With this site, users can fuse two sources of government datasets and build a mashup to show how they interact. This approach can tease apart a lot of potentially interesting information by looking at one dataset through the perspective of another. The presentations can be rendered by maps and charts. In one instance, the total amount of political contributions is divided by each state's population to get a chart showing the per capita political contribution for each state.

The final winner, which will be picked by a vote on the Sunlight Lab page, will be announced at the Gov 2.0 Conference in September.

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra set up Data.gov so that third parties can reuse government-generated data in innovative and useful ways. "We recognize that we don't have a monopoly on the best ideas, but we want to tap into the ingenuity of the American people," he has said.

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the amount of government transparency, set up Sunlight Labs to encourage the development of new technologies to facilitate greater public interaction with government datasets.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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