The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit working for a more open and accountable government, recently sponsored Apps for America 2 together with Google, O'Reilly Media, and TechWeb. These organizations wanted to demonstrate that developers will step up and make government data easier for the public to consume if the data is available.
- GovPulse.us. Search the federal register by date, topic, or location. Searches can be saved in news readers, so new articles are automatically delivered. For an example, I tried out the phrase "Legal Services Corporation." The entries aren't very exciting, but imagine your organization's advocates getting articles about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or domestic violence.
- ThisWeKnow.org. Dig into data about a specific location. For my hometown, I found out that violent crime hasn't increased and it's just as homogeneous as when I lived there. (Alternatively, my current town isn't nearly as peaceful.) The front page also includes top ten lists for several topics including unemployment and toxins.
- DataMasher. Map data and look for patterns. A couple of examples: Federal Spending by State / Population Census 2008, % of Total Population in Prison, and Political Party Contributions Ratio. Make certain to read the comments. A warning: this tool makes mapping the data easy, but you need to think carefully before interpreting what you see.
Additional apps have been highlighted on the Sunlight Foundation's blog.
Apps for America 2 wasn't the Sunlight Foundation's first attempt to examine how technology can make the government more open. They have also suggested a facelight for the SCOTUS website and started crowdsourcing tedious tasks. - K