The OMB was instructed by President Obama to issue an Open Government Directive to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. The goal was to create economic opportunities, increased transparency in open government, accountability and responsiveness by making Federal Government data more widely available and accessible to the public.
Data.gov was created to be the flagship of the Open Government Initiative. It strives to provide the public with free and easy access to high-value data sets generated and hosted by the Federal Government. In effect, it is intended to lead the way in “democratizing data.”
Among the requirements of the Data.gov initiative was the desire to create a public-facing website with a back-end catalog of Federal datasets. The design of the website demanded constant improvement to search capabilities, and a shared performance management framework that centered on high quality, secure public information. Moreover, in an effort to not only provide information to the public but engage with them, Data.gov is routinely updated and improved in keeping with public feedback. REI, in conjunction with other vendors, was tasked to create, manage and continuously improve Data.gov.
REI developed the infrastructure required to host the site on a very tight, five-week deadline. Taking into account the requirement for multiple Federal agencies to be able to provide data to the website, REI suggested building the solution inside the Cloud.
The back-end architecture of the site was designed as a hybrid of a content management system in which agencies can upload data directly to Data.gov, and a catalog system that allows the public to easily search data from multiple agencies on one central site and link to agency-specific results. REI worked around the clock to ensure that Data.gov passed its certification and accreditation to operate as a government website within the five-week deadline.
Upon its launch in May 2009, Data.gov cataloged 47 disparate datasets. Since then REI has worked to gather additional datasets from agencies and promote them to the public. With access to more data, REI has been tasked with expanding the backend system of Data.gov so that it could host the increased functionality, as well as putting in protocols to approve the data being published to protect sensitive content.
REI’s proven Agile methodology and ability to rapidly develop and deploy customized solutions when and how the customer needs them is the reason they have been tasked again and again to create on-the-fly upgrades to Data.gov. When agencies publish high-value data that the White House wants to promote, the OMB turns to REI Systems to make the necessary changes.
Public response to Data.gov has been overwhelmingly positive and proactive. As a part of its core mission, Data.gov continues to adapt to the needs of the public from their feedback. One of these adaptations was the creation of communities on the site that allow people with like-minded interests to interact, discuss and share their results.
These social networks that REI helped create on Data.gov have led to innovative applications created from the Federal data, such as Patientslikeme.com which allows people to register and identify their conditions to find people around them with similar ailments. The site has also cross-referenced data found on Data.gov on clinical trials in their area relating to their illness.
These types of innovations, made possible with REI’s flexible solutions, have helped to not only increase government transparency but have also spurred a partnership between the Federal Government and its citizenry, utilizing citizen engagement and making their taxes work for them.