“Develop”-ing Open Government Resources

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White House launches “one-stop shop” of open government resources.

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As part of President Obama’s initiative to make access to government data easier, the White House has unveiled “/Developers,” a collection of “open source” and “open data” resources that the administration claims will serve as a “one-stop shop” for citizens looking for federal agency data.

The “Open Data” part of the website offers access to more agency datasets on Data.gov. Much of this data is now machine-readable “so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn [the data] into new products, services, and jobs,” according to the White House. The White House also allows access to 103 mobile applications.

Further, under the banner of “Open Source,” the White House has released software programs it has developed in order to allow users to modify and distribute them. Among the released programs is a tool to create and sign petitions.

The White House also released new mobile applications for iPhone and Android users. The source code for these apps was released so that “anyone, from civic hackers and local organizations to federal agencies, can freely download these apps, make changes, and use them for their own projects,” according to Peter Welsh, White House Deputy Director of Online Platform for the Office of Digital Strategy.

These developments follow President Obama’s announcement in May of a new digital government initiative, “Building a 21st Century Digital Government.” According to the President, one goal of this initiative is for agencies to “use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible.” The initiative requires agencies to “establish specific, measurable goals for delivering better digital services” and make government information more accessible and centralized. The agencies are also encouraged, according to the President’s memorandum, to “deliver information in new ways that fully utilize the power and potential of mobile and web-based technologies.”

Government watchdogs seem to be reserving judgment on whether the administration is keeping its promise to be more open.  A recent report from the group OpenTheGovernment.org, for example, praises the administration’s progress in making the government more “open,” including increased processing of public requests for information and protection of federal employee whistleblowers. Still, the same report calls on the administration to classify fewer documents and invoke executive privilege less often.