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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.

EDGI releases 2019 annual report

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) has just released its 2019 annual report. Check out what they’ve been doing over the past year in terms of archiving data, environmental data justice, interviewing and policy project, and website monitoring. props to EDGI for a year well-worked!

From the report…

EDGI’s Archiving Working Group continues to build on its grassroots Data Rescue efforts that involved events in over 40 cities and towns across North America and ended in mid-2018. Our archiving work has: ● Enhanced the public accessibility of downloaded data ● Established partnerships with software companies, QRI and Protocol Labs, to develop “Data Together,” a set of protocols and technologies for decentralizing data storage online ● Advanced a collaboration with Science 2 Action to build systems to better identify still vulnerable federal datasets and effectively copy them ● Launched the beta-version of our Environmental Impact Statement search tool in consultation with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

and more…

Archiving is perhaps the most-changed of EDGI’s areas of work. A year ago, Archiving was the home of a lot of direct work: hosting large data-archiving events and building software tools to support the identification and storage of data. But in the last year, Archiving has become more reflective, quieter, and theory-focused. Archiving continues to hold the data that was harvested in previous years, but now the group gives most of its attention to thoughtful design of data archiving technologies. There are two main reasons for the shift in focus. One is highly pragmatic: the sheer bulk of volunteer labor required to continuously host events and build software tools was unsustainable. The second reason is more a mark of our organization’s maturation. EDGI’s core strength is not in its capacity to do work; rather, it is in its ways of being, doing, and thinking. EDGI’s unique value is its interdisciplinary site at the crossroads of justice, environment, data, and technology . As such, Archiving has been focusing on Data Together, an ongoing and inclusive conversation between EDGI and partners QRI and Protocol Labs, both of whom are building foundational technology for storing data in a decentralized internet. All of the partners think daily about data provenance and ownership and sharing models. The first annual Data Together meeting, in August 2018, yielded the Data Together mission: Data Together empowers people to create a decentralized civic layer for the web, leveraging community, trust, and shared interest to steward data they care about. The group also completed the first “semester” of a monthly reading group. Through carefully curated reading lists and 90-minute group discussions, the partners covered the topics of: the decentralized web; ownership; commons; centralization vs. decentralization vs. peer-to-peer or federation; privacy; and justice. This is a place for partners to seat their work in broad, theoretical contexts. We anticipate that the Archival functions within EDGI will continue to change as the organization continues to learn.

Department of Commerce Data Usability Project

This certainly seems to be the year when open government data really flowers. From NASA to Census to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — not to mention data.gov! — across the Federal government, agencies are setting up developer sites with open APIs so that the public can reuse agency data and information. Just search “API site:*.gov” and you’ll find a bunch of agency open data sites.

Now we can add the Department of Commerce, which has recently released a site called the Commerce Data Usability Project. The site has some great usability tutorials (and hopefully will have more soon!) to help people get started with Dept of Commerce data and tools like R, Python, and Javascript. Check it out.

With tens of thousands of datasets ranging from satellite imagery to material standards to demographic surveys, the U.S. Department of Commerce has long been in the business of Open Data. Through the Commerce Data Usability Project, go on a series of guided tours through the Commerce data lake and learn how you can leverage this free and open data to unlock the possible.

Data and Goliath

schneier
If you don’t keep up with privacy issues, this is the book you should read to catch up.

And here are a couple of quick overviews of the book to entice you:

UPDATE #1: Bruce Schneier was on DemocracyNow last week discussing the book. See the video below.



The Rise of the Chief Data Officer

More and more federal government agencies are getting a “chief data officer” (CDO). NextGov interviewed five recently appointed agency CDOs. These are very brief overviews of the vast amount of data being managed by the government (the CDO for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notes that they are adding about a billion records a month). There is no mention of preservation of the data.

Data, Data, Data.

As a data librarian since the mid-1980s, I have watched the field expand and bourgeon with a sense of giddy delight. A good friend who has been a data librarian longer than I have once said he would retire when children started saying that wanted to grow up to be data librarians. Well, that time may have come. As a documents librarian since the late 1970s, watching the merger of “data” and government information in the minds of government officials as well as librarians is like a dream come true.

Reading this piece from “The First-Ever U.S. Chief Data Scientist” on the White House web site shows just how important government data has become.

Patil says, “my role as the U.S. CDS will be to responsibly source, process, and leverage data in a timely fashion to enable transparency, provide security, and foster innovation for the benefit of the American public, in order to maximize the nation’s return on its investment in data.”

See also: The White House Names Dr. DJ Patil as the First U.S. Chief Data Scientist.

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