Feb 17, 2009

The Path to Recovery.GOV

Tech President does a good first run at the new content-filled incarnation of www.recovery.gov site (as compared to the placeholder previewed last month).

According to the new site
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be carried out with full transparency and accountability -- and Recovery.gov is the centerpiece of that effort. [and] Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. --Read more on recovery.gov
Tech President outlines, at first blush, what is there--an "elegant" timeline, "cute" charts, invitation to share stories--and what's missing--primarily "data. data. data."
Data. Data. Data. Of course, with the act three hours old, there just isn't much yet. That said, whether Recovery.gov will give open-government advocates the raw data that they're hungering for is still an open question. The site is, thus far, populated by the shiny consumer-end charts. A that's good start, but no replacement, advocates say, for raw XML data then can then use for mash-ups and number crunching.

There are signs that the Administration gets what advocates want. The site promises to "[p]rovide data that will allow citizens to evaluate the Act’s progress and provide feedback," and a question on XML in the FAQs acknowledges the absence of data, but says "as new systems are developed to capture the allocations and expenditures under the Act, we plan to make that data available in exportable form."

Transparency advocates have been concerned that the public will get access to only 10,000-feet-up federal agency accounting -- not drilled-down data on, say, state-level projects. Recovery.gov implies that agencies will be handing over that granular data as a matter of course:
Very soon, the different agencies...will decide who will receive award grants and contracts. Sometimes the money will go to a state government; other times, the funds will go directly to a school, hospital, contractor, or other organization. Agencies will then deliver that information to the Recovery.gov team. We will subsequently make the information available on Recovery.gov, and you will be able to track where the money is going.--Read it all here.
This last part echoes the Collaboration Project Report on treating data as a national resource and making it available to all (see my last post).

There is talk that the recovery.gov data application is being developed as an example of open, accessible data. This can be a model for websites with similar missions.

It's definitely easier to have an open system if that's how it's designed, and it's not an insignificant task to retrofit a closed data system, but you have to start somewhere. This looks like somewhere.


  1. $787B! Let's do it big, or go home... ;-)

  2. @catahoula, and let's see what we can do to do it right, too!


I hope that you will read and comment, ask questions and make suggestions. I just ask that you simply stay on topic, respect other people’s opinions, avoid profanity, offensive statements, illegal content, and other unpleasantries. Since this is my personal blog, I reserve the right to delete any comment.