Opening up government to better serve the American people has been a key priority of this Administration from day one. On his first full day in office, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, ushering in a new era of open and accountable government. Since then, the Administration has continued to take unprecedented steps to make government more efficient and effective, including launching Data.gov, establishing the international Open Government Partnership, and signing an Executive Order on Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information. And under the Administration’s direction, Federal agencies are developing and implementing their own open-government efforts.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), for instance, is an example of a Federal agency leading the charge on using open data to create real-world value. In just the past year, for instance, DOC established the Commerce Data Advisory Council, a group of up to 20 expert members helping to optimize the beneficial use of the full range of data that the DOC distributes, and the Commerce Data Service, a within-government start-up team forming partnerships with the twelve bureaus that make up the DOC to deliver products and services to help government agencies.
And in 2016, the DOC is committed to building on this momentum with new and expanded efforts to transform open data into knowledge into action.
DOC has been in the business of open data for a long time. DOC’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alone collects and disseminates huge amounts of data that fuel the global weather economy—and this information represents just a fraction of the tens of thousands of datasets that DOC collects and manages, on topics ranging from satellite imagery to material standards to demographic surveys.
Unfortunately, far too many DOC datasets are either hard to find, difficult to use, and/or not yet publicly available on Data.gov, the home of U.S. government’s open data. This challenge is not exclusive to DOC; and indeed, under Project Open Data, Federal agencies are working hard on various efforts to make tax-payer funded data more easily discoverable.
One of these efforts is DOC’s Commerce Data Usability Project (CDUP). To unlock the power of data, just making data open isn’t enough. It’s critical to make data easier to find and use—to provide information and tools that make data accessible and actionable for all users. That’s why DOC formed a public-private partnership to create CDUP, a collection of online data tutorials that provide students, developers, and entrepreneurs with the necessary context and code for them to start quickly extracting value from various datasets. Tutorials exist on topics such as:
- NOAA’s Severe Weather Data Inventory (SWDI), demonstrating how to use hail data to save life and property. The tutorial helps users see that hail events often occur in the summer (late night to early morning), and in midwestern and southern states.
- Security vulnerability data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The tutorial helps users see that spikes and dips in security incidents consistently occur in the same set of weeks each year.
- Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The tutorial helps users understand how to use satellite imagery to estimate populations.
- American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The tutorial helps users understand how nonprofits can identify communities that they want to serve based on demographic traits.
In the coming months, CDUP will continue to expand with a rich, diverse set of additional tutorials. DOC also welcomes additional data tutorials from contributors who want to demonstrate how to take advantage of the powerful applications of data managed by DOC.
You can help make CDUP better by:
- Joining in! Read the Usability Project Guidelines and submit your CDUP tutorial idea.
- Clicking here to provide feedback on the CDUP website.
- Telling us how you are using these tutorials and what improvements we could make.
Thank you for your contributions!
Jeffrey Chen is Chief Data Scientist at the Department of Commerce.
Tyrone Grandison is Deputy Chief Data Officer at the Department of Commerce.
Kristen Honey is a Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.