Where Are The APIs For Government Data?

from the open-'em-up dept

It shouldn't be a huge surprise that the government isn't always the fastest to embrace what the internet lets it do (even if it did basically fund the creation of the internet). However, a new report out of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy is suggesting that it's about time that the government make its data more widely accessible for a web 2.0 world. Basically, the government has put up websites, but it hasn't done much to make it so that it's easy to access the data available in those websites or (even more important) let other applications and services do something with that data and actually make it useful to the citizens that data is supposed to help. Given the pace of government activity in this arena, maybe we can expect some sort of movement in this direction by about 2016 or so. But wouldn't it be nice if we could actually easily pull government data and make it useful?


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  1.  
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    drthomas (profile), Jun 10th, 2008 @ 2:23am

    API?

    But how much more open could they be than allowing people to take the raw data from the unencrypted, left-in-the-open, discs?

     

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  2.  
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    colony, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 5:09am

    hahahhahha

    the data the goverment has is probably useless anyway (colour of favorite toilet roll etc). They are pen pushers, if they fell out of a window it would take them 5 years (and an independent inquiry) to hit the ground.

     

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  3.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 5:43am

    It's maybe a little scary, too, considering the government's track record for security with this kind of thing.

     

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  4.  
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    anonymous, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 5:47am

    Governments do have APIs for certain things, however just because you don't have access to them(and why should ordinary people be allowed) doesn't mean that they aren't there with some web2.0 website.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    As someone who does government work (as a contractor), let me point out a few things: With all the regulations, policies, and other rules we are required to abide by, many of us have more than enough to do just figuring out how to do our jobs, let alone getting things done. So, developing API's so Joe Citizen can follow his tax return or look for life on Mars would just add to the workload, requiring more developers and thus more money = tax dollars. So, let me ask, do you want to pay more taxes for these API's?

     

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  6.  
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    Evil Mike, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 7:17am

    Death and Taxes?

    There's a large amount of "public" information, available to anybody (ha ha); and yet most of the public has no clue such information exists and is available, let alone how to retrieve it.

    I'd love to say "let's get those API's made, but we all know those pork-barreling jerkwads would want $5 million in blood-sucked tax money in order to accomplish $10,000 worth of web development.

     

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  7.  
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    nick, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 7:34am

    I too do government contract work. And I agree with 'Anonymous Coward'. With all the regulations on the government side and those of the company who is providing the contract work, it is impossible sometimes to know what is government and what is not. FOIA states something about giving out raw data and something about source code, but still that is simply another regulation we have to deal with and typically not something we have time for. Also when a FIOA request comes in, it typically means we have to stop what we are doing and fulfill it, so it takes us aways from other things we are doing (including developing APIs). Also there is big movement in the government to move towards open source, both as users and contributors. So the government is on its way, but it takes time, and time=$$$ so....

     

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  8.  
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    Hoeppner, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 10:17am

    It's very difficult to find ANYTHING intuitive on a govt. website(and even when you do find it the format for the data changes on almost a whim here and there)... I can't imagine software having an easier time of it.

     

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  9.  
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    Andy Armstrong, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 11:38am

    mySociety.org

    One of the things that mySociety.org does in the UK is take freely available government data and remix and redistribute it in forms more digestible to both humans and machines. Follow the link for more details of the many projects they're engaged in.

    Is there an equivalent in the US?

     

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  10.  
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    Brown Eye, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 1:38pm

    Re: mySociety.org

    Ha ha ha ha ha! NO...

     

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  11.  
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    steveeray, Jun 10th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    APIs Do Exist

    There are too many levels of government (state, local, feds) to lump them all in the same category of practices. I work for a local government, Larimer County Colorado, that has made APIs available to some of our data. Probably because we are small without a lot of layers of management, we're able to make things such as this available. See http://www.larimer.org/databases/api.htm for an example.

     

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    drthomas (profile), Jun 11th, 2008 @ 5:16am

    Re:

    Governments do have APIs for certain things, however just because you don't have access to them(and why should ordinary people be allowed) doesn't mean that they aren't there with some web2.0 website.

    Because we, the taxpayers, fund the research and data collection I strongly believe that we, the taxpayers, should get access to the data we funded. Particularly if the data's already supposed to be publicly available anyway; we're not asking for access to sensitive data, just a way to access the data, and manipulate it to a useful format.

     

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    maxhdrm, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re:

    actually most governments have very limited API's and what they do have is internal for the most part. With government it is a "do we NEED" this scenario because inevitably everything comes down to budget. Working for the government I can tell you that at least here in CAli budgets are very strict. As long as what they have works they will NOT pay for extended or updated applications.

    That is not to say they can as well considering so many agencies are using more legacy systems then you are aware which in turn limits there ability to provide API's or adapt their websites for Web 2.0 . I work for a court that still uses Exchange server 2000 and Enterprise Server 2002.

    I personally attribute this to the fact the governments have racial profiling in the opposite sense that they hire asians because they are suppose to be really good at computer. Our IT employs 1 caucasian, 1 african american and the rest are asians with "general" computer science. they have no motivation to continuously learn with evolving technologies and quite a few don't own computers at home. So how is the government suppose to update its infrastructure (which needs to happen first before opening APIs)If it is satisfied with "plug-n-play" IT guys?

    Those are just two factors from my perspective but the main point is security. Internally very few understand appropriate levels of security for their infrastructure.

     

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  14.  
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    FriendyAnil, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    none

    Hi, I read your post and i appreciate your feelings that you are apologize for any rude comment for this site.and sir every person has their own feelings so why are you irritate from those people you just think about Christ and serve him. thanks.mls

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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