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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.

Increasing the Reach of Census Bureau Data

A reminder of some of the ways the Census Bureau is using to promote and facilitate use of its wealth of data.

  • Increasing the Reach of Census Bureau Data. By Raul Cisneros, director, Center for New Media and Promotion and Rebecca Blash, chief, Center for Enterprise Dissemination Services and Consumer Innovation (CEDSCI), U.S. Census Bureau. The Commerce Blog (December 19, 2014).

Some of the things mentioned:

  • APIs and newsletter for developers.
  • dwellr. An app that helps users discover cities and towns that fit their lifestyle
  • America’s Economy. App provides real-time updates of 20 key economic indicators
  • Quickfacts. fully interactive, customized tables that let users compare statistics for up to six locations side by side, and to share those statistics in social media

Sunlight Foundation Congress App: Great App Put to Immediate use

We recently became aware of a new(ish) app from the Sunlight Foundation. It is the Congress App and is available for both iOS and Android.  We think anyone who is interested in keeping tabs on Congress and who owns a smartphone ought to download this app.

I (Daniel) have the Android version, which is divided into these sections:

  • People (Representatives and Senators)
  • Bills
  • Votes
  • The Floor
  • Hearings
  • Committees

Because of the way that Congress itself chooses to disseminate information the public, bill information and vote information can be delayed. Although it is much easier to have the latest Congressional votes at your fingertips instead of digging to find them.

People is great. It was easy for me to add my Congressional delegation to a tracking list. For each Member of Congress you can do the following:

  • Call their office
  • Visit their website
  • View their voting record
  • See their sponsored bills
  • View committees they are a part of
  • See news from across the internet mentioning your Member of Congress.

As a full time information activist and an on and off political junkie and social justice person, I find this app incredibly helpful. I was also able to put it to immediate use.

In what could be a whole other post, the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office is reporting that the secret negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has this bad news for the Public Domain:

If you use the public domain — which we all do — we’re all going to get stiffed, because there are proposals to lengthen the Berne-mandated terms from life + 50 years, to life + 70, or even life + 100 years.

There’s other bad news for copyright, including bad news for creators. There’s disturbing news on other fronts regarding the TPP, so I urge you to read the whole article.

I read ALA’s blog post right after installing the Congress App. So I used it to visit the websites of my two Senators and House member and send quick e-mails urging them to reject “fast tracking” the TPP and telling them I found ANY further extension of copyright terms unacceptable. I hope you’ll take the same message to your Congress people. You don’t have to use Sunlight’s app, but it does make it easier.

Moving back to the app itself, I wanted to remind you that free apps like these are only possible because Congressional information is publicly available. If Congress decided to go back into paper or only license its digital data to one vendor, we couldn’t have things like this.


CIA makes public its role in 1953 Iran coup. iPad app soon follows

In a news and FOIA coup (pardon the pun), Malcolm Byrne at the National Security Archive recently announced that the CIA declassified and released documents confirming their role in the 1953 Iran Coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq (more news coverage here). This adds information to the already informative National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book #28 “Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup 1953.”

And now, hot on the heels of this amazing disclosure, Cognito Comics has just released the CIA Operation Ajax Interactive Graphic Novel for iPad and iPhone (with Android coming soon). Check it out!


The Obama Administration has launched the Smart Disclosure Data Community at Consumer.Data.gov.

  • Consumer.Data.gov.

    This site is a centralized federal resource for Smart Disclosure. Here you will find hundreds of government datasets that can help enable consumer choice; apps that demonstrate the power of Smart Disclosure; challenges for app developers; and resources to learn more about Smart Disclosure.

  • Consumer.Data.Gov is Live!, by Sophie Raseman and Nick Sinai, whitehouse.gov (February 11, 2013).

    The Community announced today is a first-of-its-kind centralized platform containing over 400 smart disclosure data sets and resources from dozens of agencies across government. Using the Community, entrepreneurs and innovators can access free Federal data to create the consumer applications, products, and services of the future — all in one convenient location.

Reviews of two economic data apps

NextGov asked app reviewers to take a look at two recently-launched government apps designed to help the public navigate complex economic information: The Census Bureau’s America’s Economy app and the Education Department’s StudentAid.gov mobile website.