Mar 21 2013

Federal Government Takes Another Step Toward Open Data with New API

GSA gives developers access to social API, but is it useful?

The federal government is making more moves to engage with citizens on the web. Along with the recently announced Civic Hacking Day, they have released a social application programming interface. Better known as an API, this particular application programming interface is meant for developers who want to dig into open government data. The General Services Administration (GSA) provides more information in a recent blog post:

The potential of the API is demonstrated by basic widgets that open up content from social media accounts across government, searchable by agency, topic or language — regardless of the source, and without navigating individual federal websites or social media platforms. For example, content can be mashed up across one agency (i.e. all Twitter activity from all USDA Twitter accounts) or across a particular topic based on keyword tags (i.e. all Twitter content that has been tagged as “business” content).

Via the API, we’re roadmapping the use of customized social data streams, which allows:

  • anyone to find the information they need and engage directly with agencies based on topics and language
  • agencies to unlock valuable content and data, and provide it based on user’s interests, not government silos
  • entrepreneurs and small businesses to create new and better services by having easier access to the data

Read New Online Tools Advance Government Communication on the GSA blog.

Is a tool like this necessary? What will developers do with this data? Whether or not developers are clamoring for access to the government’s social media data, the GSA is moving toward a more open and transparent government. The release of this API is another step in that direction:

"Unlocking this API empowers entrepreneurs and start-ups to create a next generation of tools and services that will positively disrupt the citizen engagement model," said Justin Herman, lead for Social Media in the GSA Center for Excellence in Digital Government, via e-mail to Mashable.

The agency is also treating this API as a trailblazer in social media and government — it's a test case to show federal agencies the value in making data easily accessible from a variety of government sources.

"Together, these initiatives represent a new phase of social media in government where social data spreads into the hands of all public program managers and citizens," [Herman] wrote in a blog post announcing the API. "The efforts illustrate how government agencies are simplifying access to government content and advancing the goals of the Digital Government Strategy — ensuring that people can access government information anywhere, anytime, on any device."

Read The Government Wants You to Innovate With Its New Social APIs on Mashable.

What data would you like to see the government release? And what do you think developers should do with this data? Let us know in the Comments section.

<p>Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p>

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