Invitation to help Open Up Government Data
March 9th, 2009

If you recall, as I do, when Wikipedia first began to get some publicity, the usual response (including mine) was something like this: Let everybody jump in and make an encyclopedia? It’ll never work.

Now being launched, and described in a WIRED article “Open Up Government Data,” a new project will let everybody jump in and start solving this problem:

More than 100 government agencies collect statistics and data. Though some agencies have done a great job of getting their data and documents online, the accessibility and usability of government data overall can be improved.

The Federal government is a big beast with more lots of agencies collecting and publishing data, some of it stretching back decades. Much of the data about the workings of our country is stranded in PDFs, Excel spreadsheets and other less-than-ideal formats. The net effect is that scientists, lawmakers, journalists and citizens can’t access key decision-making information.

A section of the WIRED article called “The Solution: You” describes what you can do and says: “With your help, we can combine the best of new social media and old-school journalism to get more of the data we’ve already paid for in our hands.”

Will the wisdom of the crowd sort out the bureaucratic information chaos of Washington? We are going to find out.

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