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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.

Crowdsourcing challenge: Who started the open data initiative?

I was recently thinking about the diffusion process behind open data initiatives. Local and federal governments across the world are incorporating their versions of “free data.” This movement has even travelled up north, such as in the village I currently reside in; which released its first batch of data on November 2009. It seems all too coincidental that many levels of government adopted “free data” soon after the launch of Data.gov by the U.S. government in May 2009. Some questions that pop into my mind are:

1. When and where exactly did this open data movement originate from?
2. Are left-wing local/federal governments stronger supporters of this policy?

I invite the readers to share any insight they have regarding these (open?) questions.


Check out DataTO.org, which is similar to data.gov, but users request data sets from the Toronto municipal government. The first phase of the website will allow one to:

…publish a request for data to the community, where members can comment and rate the request. In future iterations of this site, publishers and others will be able to post details of known and existing data sources so that community members can rate them for prioritization. Users will then be able to find data sources that have been published.

Kudos to O’Reilly Radar.

National Data Catalog from Sunlight Labs

Our friends over at Sunlight Labs have announced a new project they call that “National Data Catalog” that will build on data.gov:

Today I’m happy to announce Sunlight Labs is stealing an idea from our government. Data.gov is an incredible concept, and the implementation of it has been remarkable. We’re going to steal that idea and make it better. Because of politics and scale there’s only so much the government is going to be able to do. There are legal hurdles and boundaries the government can’t cross that we can. For instance: there’s no legislative or judicial branch data inside Data.gov and while Data.gov links off to state data catalogs, entries aren’t in the same place or format as the rest of the catalog. Community documentation and collaboration are virtual impossibilities because of the regulations that impact the way Government interacts with people on the web.

We think we can add value on top of things like Data.gov and the municipal data catalogs by autonomously bringing them into one system, manually curating and adding other data sources and providing features that, well, Government just can’t do. There’ll be community participation so that people can submit their own data sources, and we’ll also catalog non-commercial data that is derivative of government data like OpenSecrets. We’ll make it so that people can create their own documentation for much of the undocumented data that government puts out and link to external projects that work with the data being provided.

If you’re interested in helping out on this effort, please join the National Data Catalog Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/datacatalog?lnk=gcamv.

Global Change Master Directory of data sets

There are some amazing data sets at this web site. These could be useful for patrons seeking data or faculty looking for free data sets for students to use on class projects.

NASA Global Change Master Directory, Discover Earth Science data and services

The mission of the Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) is to enable the scientific community to discover and access Earth science data and services through distributed, integrated information technology systems. The GCMD offers authoring tools to achieve this mission, which conform to international standards. Tools are available to write, directly submit, and directly update metadata records.

Real-Time Water Data for the Nation

You can access real-time water data from the USGS National Water Information System: Web Interface. Data are recorded at 15-60 minute intervals and then transmitted to USGS offices every 1 to 4 hours. During critical events such as flooding and hurricanes, recording and transmission times may be more frequent. Data from real-time sites are relayed to USGS offices via satellite, telephone, and/or radio and are available for viewing within minutes of arrival. Data are collected at approximately 1.5 million sites in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Data available include stream discharge, water levels, precipitation, and components from water-quality monitors.

Drop down menus and a hot linked map are among the features that make finding and using this data easy.