February 23, 2009

Sunlight Foundation on recovery.gov

Much has been written about the launch of recovery.gov to track the progress of the stimulus bill. Here is the Sunlight Foundation's take:

Overall, Recovery.gov provides a good beginning, but we’ll have to see how it rolls out the information once it becomes available. At this point, the myriad contracts have not been signed and the money is only beginning to flow out. Thus, we aren’t provided with the “maps, charts, and graphics” the site ensures they will create out of the data collected. When the contracts are signed there are a few important steps that the administration can take to truly fulfill their commitment to transparency

We here at TransparentNevada are in full agreement.

In addition, it is important that the data be presented in an open and freely exchangeable format. As the Sunlight Foundation article mentions, the true innovation will come from third-parties who take the data from recovery.gov and create mashups that will show the data in new and exciting ways. A mashup might be a bit foreign to you, but their basic idea is that you take data from one or more sources and create something new and exciting out of it. A mashup, for example, when it comes to transparency is to hook up the stimulus bill spending reports to Google Maps and find out which House districts are getting the most money and if their vote on the stimulus bill has any bearing on that fact. However, before any of that is even possible the data needs to be in a format that is easily understood by computers. Hence the need for an open and freely exchangeable format.