Worldwide Government Open Data Infrastructure Takes Shape

Mark Boyd, August 6th, 2013

Open data infrastructure is being built out across the globe to better allow governments at all levels to improve access to data sources. Across the globe, governments are adopting their own API management platforms, announcing roadmaps for data accessibility, improving internal API capacities and unlocking government-held data so that it can be used by local citizens and businesses seeking to build new commercial products and technologies.

ProgrammableWeb’s Janet Wagner last week documented the US Government’s open data policy framework, describing key initiatives including an executive order by the White House that stipulates that all future government data releases should be in a machine-readable format.

Now that the policy framework is in place, the White House administration and US Government departrments are setting the infrastructure in place to make this happen. At the center of the infrastructure is an API management platform for government departments.

api.data.gov has been released to enable US Federal agencies to more quickly and easily publish their datasets via API tools. A key goal of the platform is to make it easier for developers to create applications using Federal data sources. Api.data.gov is powered by the open source project, API Umbrella.

While there are commercial API management platforms available, API Evangelist Kin Lane – who has been contracted to help work on building API capacity and skill inside the White House administration – explains why it makes more sense for government to work on an open source project:

“While creating, yet another API management solution may not seem like the best idea at first, I can see why federal agencies would do it. Because of terms of use, costs and vendor lock-in with proprietary solutions, they are just seeking a simpler, cost effective alternative to solutions available in the private sector.”

Api.data.gov has released a roadmap to help developers and Federal agencies make the most of the API management infrastructure, including priority goals to release more user-friendly and interactive documentation, and plans to allow for analytics reporting of API usage before the end of the year.

Api.data.gov’s roadmap joins recent international releases of roadmaps aimed at providing transparency for those interested in the open data infrastructure of governments. The open source platform CKAN – managed by the Open Knowledge Foundation and used by government’s worldwide as a data publishing platform – also announced its roadmap for the future in the past week. CKAN is used by nataional, state and city governments around the world to encourage publication of open data in accessible formats, and comes with the powerful CKAN API which allows for detailed data requests and data analytics. CKAN is widely used around the world, including by Brisbane (Australia), Canada, the US, and most recently the city of Recife in Brazil.

Governments are under an increasing spotlight to make their data accessible as more communities become acquainted with the idea of accessing government data via APIs. The Sunlight Foundation in the US, for example, has introduced new API search tools making it easier for citizens and reporters to review which members of Congress have voted on specific legislature. These new interactive search tools extend the Sunlight Foundation’s API tools, which include easy ways for reporters to review which memebrs of Congress have met with industry lobbyists, and to review individual campaign donations.

Tags: Gov, News
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