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Excellent XML! Rhode Island shows how to share government information!

The Secretary of State’s office of the state of Rhode Island has set up a service called GovTracker which is the most advanced use of government-to-public technology I’ve seen.

The government group responsible for this says that they have a goal of sharing information with the public:

It is the goal of the RI Data Share Committee to make Rhode Island a national showcase for the utilization of data sharing technologies in government that will offer citizens, businesses and state and local governments a more efficient and cost-effective way to share and exchange information via the Internet

The service provides numerous RSS feeds, including “Recently filed minutes,” “upcoming open meetings,” “Traffic Conditions – Providence,” and so forth. There is a long list of those that are available and, of course, a “Feed of all Providence Feeds”!

The state also provides a very nice web site with background information on what this is about, how to use RSS, a glossary, and other very practical information.

But wait! There’s more! The state is also providing directory information in a special XML format that makes it easy to re-use the information in your own applications. For example, you can get relationships between Lobbyist, Firm and Entity with contact for each lobbyist. Many of these can be queries so that you can, for instance, request information about a particular lobbyist and get back, not just a plain text answer, but the lastname wrapped in a “lastname” xml tag, the lobby firm name wrapped in a “lobbyfirm” xml tag and so forth. Users will be able to create applications that parse this XML and reuse it, combine it with other information, re-display it, analyze it, and so forth. This is definitely next-generation government information sharing!

There is a good, short article about this here:

Rhode Island Govtracker Services By: S. James Willis, Government Open Code Collaborative, Jun 30, 2005.

It notes:

It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he’s recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street.

And there is more technical information here: GovTracker services

Thanks to Peter Suber.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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