popularity soaring, GSA report says

The Obama administration's open data initiative is accelerating in popularity and has been emulated around the world, according to a progress report from the General Services Administration.

The federal repository experienced major gains in 2011 in the number of data sets added and downloaded and in the number of new applications and “mashups” created with data obtained from the site, according to a new report from the General Services Administration.

The Barack Obama administration launched as a flagship open government initiative in 2009. It contains thousands of data sets of machine-readable federal government data, collected from a variety of federal agencies. The data sets are available for free download to the public.

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While Congress reduced funding for and other open government initiatives last year, the GSA's Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies, project manager for, released its annual report on Dec. 30 showing that’s popularity is accelerating and has had global impact.

For example, the number of data set downloads increased to 2.35 million in a 16-month period that ended Sept. 30. Previously, there were 652,000 data sets downloaded in a 12-month period that ended May 2010.

When adjusted to a 12-month average, the annual rate of growth in downloads was 270 percent.

The number of applications and mashups created by the public and by governments during the period also rose substantially, to 1,079 during the 16-month period that ended Sept. 30. That compared to 237 during the 12-month period.

Annualized, the rate of growth in mashups was 341 percent.

During the same time periods, the number of data sets available at grew to 390,000 as of Sept. 30, up from 273,000 as of May 2010.

Other countries have followed the U.S. lead in creating data repositories of their own, with 21 nations doing so as of Sept. 30, up from 6 in May 2010. State-sponsored open data websites rose to 29, from 8, during the same periods; while city-sponsored websites rose to 11, from 8.

The report also highlighted additional features of added in recent months, including six dedicated sections called Data communities organized around topics including energy, health, law and oceans. Four more communities are planned in the coming months, the report said.

The potential savings to taxpayers for the data collaborations in the communities was $5.5 million, the GSA said in the report.

The U.S. and India are collaborating on the initiative to provide an open source, integrated version of that can be adopted by other countries to make their own available freely available and downloadable on the Internet in usable formats.

Another new feature is the Interactive Catalog, which is a cloud-based capability that provides an interface to help citizens find and use the data they are looking for.

The catalog “is available anywhere, anytime, is secure and backed-up, without the expense of dedicated government servers,” the GSA report said. “Application developers will be able to access the data in real time (vs. downloading files) through open, consistent, ubiquitous, standards-based Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), enabling them to tailor applications to use only the data they need (promoting mobile apps) and enabling real-time updates for always-fresh data.”

The interactive cloud platform also allows users to embed data from Data.Gov on blogs, websites and social media pages.

The GSA's fiscal year 2011 Annual Report for the Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies also highlights other open government, cybersecurity and efficiency programs, including Cloud First cloud computing, FedRamp collaboration on cybersecurity standards and platform for innovation contests.

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