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Administration plans to expand online government data site

A comprehensive online warehouse of downloadable federal statistics is expected soon to add clickable tags that allow users to search and catalog related content, the White House chief information officer said on Thursday.

"We want to be able to get multiple tagging. We've seen in social networking, that's been extremely useful," Vivek Kundra said of the features coming in a few months to the next version of Data.gov.

Toward the end of June, Kundra's office also will unveil a publicly accessible Web application that will quantify the progress of federal IT programs, allowing taxpayers to see whether the projects are on schedule and within budget. "We're going to power a lot of that through Data.gov," he said. "The idea is it's better to create platforms that are horizontal in nature, [but] what I don't want to do is give the impression that this is all going to happen overnight."

The goal of the government data depot, which launched May 21, is to encourage nongovernment users to mash agency information with other data sets to generate new services and sites and to enhance search engines. For instance, a real estate developer could map the migration patterns of wildlife, obtained through a live data feed from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, on top of blueprints to pinpoint areas where construction could harm the ecosystem.

But the government's outdated information technology systems prohibit much of that innovation now, Kundra stressed.

"The federal government has over 10,000 systems and a lot of these systems are old," he said, noting that eventually the government will need to transition to hardware and software that can provide real-time feeds. "What we want to make sure is that we bake all of that [transparency] into new procurements."

Critics say unless the content is available in open formats, such as the Web standard Extensible Markup Language (XML), citizen programmers will have difficulty analyzing the data.

Kundra said he is pushing agencies to package the data for easy access and sharing, but "we haven't prescribed a specific format."

Data.gov offered 47 data sets when it launched. That number has grown to 87 sets and is expected to hit over 100,000 feeds by the end of next week.

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