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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

US Federal Government IT Dashboard: Data and Visualization

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.”

Eleven Great Sources of Government Data Sets to View in Google Earth

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.

Have a favorite KML formatted government data set I missed? Please share it in the comments. I found many of these by starting in Goggle’s US Government Search and searching for Google Earth.

Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Corps Recruits People Amazon Turk Style

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.