White House opens the source code for Data.gov

The White House has released Data.gov source code as part of an initiative to bring greater transparency to governments worldwide.

The project, Data.gov in a Box, is a joint effort between the U.S. and Indian governments. Teams have been working together since August and plan to launch the complete open-source code — called Open Government Platform — early in 2012. OGPL is based on code from both Data.gov and India’s India.gov.in government data sites.

“The module — paired with the software for the Open Government Platform website being developed by India — will enable governments around the world to launch their own open government sites and increase transparency and accountability,” federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra wrote in an entry on the White House blog.

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The announcement is part of a broader initiative to create more transparency and enable greater participation and collaboration in government. In September, the United States announced its participation in a multigovernment transparency initiative, Open Government Partnership, Federal Computer Week reported. The announcement was part of the U.S. National Action Plan, which detailed the steps the government will take to meet its transparency goals.

Some, however, are skeptical that these transparency initiatives will get the desired results. John Wonderlich, policy director of The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit government transparency watchdog organization, describes the results of the Open Government Directive as “mixed” in a Dec. 7 blog entry.

“In some cases, agencies' goals were clearly met," Wonderlich wrote. "Many of the datasets planned to be released are now available on Data.gov, and the projects and tools that agencies described are under way. Often, however, agencies have failed to live up to the standards that they set for themselves as a result of the Open Government Directive.”

Similarly, there appears to be a disconnect between the government’s public stance on transparency and its actions, the Washington Post reported. The government is increasing its crackdowns on data leakers and has held at least one closed-door meeting on transparency, the newspaper noted.

And there is another hurdle as well: budget cuts. Although Data.gov remains a priority for the government, funding levels for 2012 will be less for this and other similar projects, FCW reported in October.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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