If you enjoy interactive data visualizations, make sure you visit the US Federal IT Dashboard. This site is meant for use by both the public and the staff of federal agencies. The goal is to make it easy to explore how the federal government is spending its IT dollars.
The major components of the dashboard are:
- Performance Dashboard: supports viewing of major IT investments, filterable by agency
- Data Feeds: will let you select data to download or create a “dynamically XML feed”
- Analysis Visualizations: lets you chart and animate any combination of 15 IT spending statistics from 2002 to present
This blurb off the FAQ page gives a great overview of what this site is all about:
“The IT Dashboard provides the public with an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides users with the ability to track the progress of investments over time. The IT Dashboard displays data received from agency reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including general information on over 7,000 Federal IT investments and detailed data for nearly 800 of those investments that agencies classify as “major.” The performance data used to track the 800 major IT investments is based on milestone information displayed in agency reports to OMB called “Exhibit 300s.” Agency CIOs are responsible for evaluating and updating select data on a monthly basis, which is accomplished through interfaces provided on the website.”
One great way to get your head around a large government dataset is to view it using Google Earth. I went on a hunt for the most interesting, striking and geography based government data sets currently available in the KML format used by Google Earth. There is a large gallery of tours and layers available from Google Earth’s site, including some based on government data – but I wanted to look beyond them.
Here are eleven data sources (in no particular order) that have KML files ready and waiting for you to download. For some of these you will need to read the instructions associated with the KML to understand what you are looking at and what special features are enabled. Some have multiple datasets within a single KML file — others include animations. Often when you open them in Google Earth they will start out with either a helpful note or a built in graphical key.
- USDA Forest Service: MODIS Active Fire Mapping Program: View fire detection data and incident information
- USGS Earthquake Hazards Program: real-time earthquake data (updated every 5 minutes!), geologic features and virtual tours of historic earthquakes.
- FEMA Flood Hazards: Stay Dry provides basic flood hazard map information from FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer for specific addresses while NFHL (National Flood Hazard Layer) appears to be a more general application that displays flood hazard zones, floodways, base flood elevations, cross sections and coastal transects and much more.
- NASA: Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio: provides various visualization layers including Tectonic Plates Boundaries and African Fires during 2002. Dig through the various categories, there is a lot here.
- Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory OnEarth: multiple options are available for viewing daily updated views of earth from satellites. Very striking!
- gCensus: provides access to data from the 2000 US Census. The site lets you browse for various elements of data and generate a KML file you can then view via Google Earth.
- Air Quality Now: provides current and forcasted air quality conditions for locations across the USA. It is a product of a partnership of multiple US Government agencies.
- National Weather Service: has a full page of KML layers related to all aspects of weather – past, present and predicted.
- National Gallery of Art: Afghanistan Hidden Treasures from the National Museum: visit Aï Khanum, Tillya Tepe, and Begram—that and examine Afghan Treasures
- National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places: provides Google Earth layers per region of the USA that mark historic places.
- District of Columbia Data Catalog: provides a wide range of data about our nations capital. You must supply some simple data to identify yourself before downloading these KML files. This is just a taste of what various regional governments are providing. Give your home state, district or territory’s website a look to see if you can find KML data available.
The Sunlight Foundation recently announced the creation of the Transparency Corps. Modeled after Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, the Transparency Corps aim to make it easy to harness small efforts by enthusiastic volunteers to move forward efforts to improve government transparency.
From the June 30, 2009 Sunlight Foundation press release:
“Inspired by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Sunlight created Transparency Corps as a new way for people to volunteer to make government transparency a reality,” said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation. “Now, when people ask ‘how can I help?’ Sunlight and future partners can provide micro-tasks that when aggregated, help solve research and data analysis problems when computers alone cannot properly scrutinize government information.”
Right now there are two projects:
Each time you complete a task, you get points. Those points add up and are how you move up the transparency leader board. I joined up to see what a task would look like. For the earmarks task I was presented with a PDF of a letter requesting funding for a local project and a form to the right of the letter to be filled in with data such as the quantity requested, title of the project and other requester information. You can see an example of one of the letters on ScribDB.
I am curious to see how big they can grow their corps & see what projects they target over the next year. I love that they are grabbing structured data. This particular task is part transcription and part encoding and reminds me of some of the work being done over on Freebase.com. For an example of one of the datasets they are building, take a look at their U.S. National Register of Historic Places base or the Government Commons.