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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.

Turning government data into private sector products is complicated business

NextGov reports on the challenges of turning raw government data into commercial products:

  • Turning government data into private sector products is complicated business, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (02/09/2012).

    “The theory behind Data.gov was, let’s move forward when it comes to sharing data,” says Josh Green, chief executive officer of Panjiva, a company that crunches customs data for U.S. businesses that import some of their raw materials. “I think that’s right in terms of what would be good for entrepreneurship, but realistically I don’t think that has filtered down to the agency level.” While Panjiva relies on some Census data, which it downloads directly from the Census Bureau, the company uses mostly Customs and Border Protection data on CD-ROMs that it pays to have delivered every day by FedEx.

    …Data.gov is laudable, Rossmeissl says, but developers’ biggest hurdle with government data isn’t finding it, but getting it quickly and in a form they can use. “That wasn’t the focus of Data.gov and, in general, it isn’t the focus of agencies producing data,” he says. “That’s not because their intentions aren’t great, but they have a history of producing data in a very specific way that goes back to the Federal Register and quarterly releases.”

    …The Data.gov team also meets regularly with about 400 agency “data stewards” to change the way government data is initially created so that it requires less translation and reformatting on the back end.

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USDA reverses decision to stop farm reports. Hear that Census Bureau?

The NY Times reported yesterday that the USDA has reversed a decision to end farming reports. Evidently, when an industry group(s) complains, the US Govt listens. So why hasn’t the Census Bureau changed their decision on killing the US Statistical Abstract?

In an abrupt about-face, the United States Department of Agriculture has decided to reverse a decision to eliminate dozens of long-standing statistical reports on a wide range of farming activities, including beekeeping, hop growing and flower farming. The agency’s statistics service said in October that it was forced by budget constraints to cut the reports and that doing so would save $11 million a year.

That led to an outcry from farm groups that said the information collected by the agency was essential. Farmers rely on the reports to decide how much to plant and how many animals to raise; they use the information to persuade bankers to lend them money and to advocate for other types of government support.

So now the Agriculture Department has reinstated most of the reports that had been given the ax. Saved are the reports on trout farming, catfish farming, floriculture, sheep and goats, bees and honey production and mink farming, among others.

Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Catfish Producers, said the sudden switch was probably “a result of the outcry from the affected commodities,” a reference to farm trade groups.

Tracking Unemployment Statistics: The Movie

Actually, it is just a 2 min 30 sec video bringing the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to the little screen. Washington Post Federal Eye blogger Ed O’Keefe posted his video story Tracking Unemployment Statistics on September 4. It features footage of real BLS employees talking about how the stats are compiled for the monthly Employment Situation release. For action shots, the video captures real BLS employees (or extras?) walking between their office and the Union Station metro stop.

BLS has a less visual but much more detailed webpage on the topic, Monthly Employment Situation Report: Quick Guide to Methods and Measurement Issues.

Indiana University’s National Government Statistics Collection

The Indiana University Bloomington Libraries are one of the leading academic research library systems in North America, providing strong collections, quality service and instructional programs, and leadership in the application of information technologies.

Indiana University has created an Archive-it collection of National Government Statistical Websites. This comprehensive collection contains web sites of statistical agencies of 150 countries from
Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Eurasia, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Oceania, Russia and Eastern Europe, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. These web sites may include data, reports, statistical yearbooks, press releases, methodological guides, and other information of continuing interest to social scientists and historians.

Indiana University has also been using Archive-it to document their own website as well as Indiana state and local government websites since 2005. A portal to all their collections can be found here. Enjoy!