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Citizens demand easy availability of government data

Richard Jones Archive

When it comes to government information, citizens have a clear demand for high levels of data quality. People want to know about the public services available to them, and they're looking for only the most accurate, up-to-date knowledge.

They don't just want data quality, though - they're also looking for data transparency. Government officials, both local and federal, have made great progress in collecting robust banks of information about numerous public programs. But in the eyes of the people, that knowledge is useless if it can't be shared with the population at large.

Government decision-makers are beginning to take notice of this public clamor and respond to it. According to Information Week, the Department of Veterans Affairs is one example of a public office that wants to make more information available to the people. The VA recently rolled out a new addition to its website that's part of the "Open Data Initiatives" effort, meaning people will have access to more tools that use the organization's open data.

This will include all kinds of data at the county, state and federal level, including information about what resources are available to veterans. This may encompass services for homelessness, health care, job assistance and many other areas of need.

Nick Sinai, federal deputy chief technology officer for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is a big believer in data transparency. He wrote in a blog post in October that having access to data is important to everyone, government agencies and individual citizens alike.

"Data is a valuable national asset that should be open and available to the public, to entrepreneurs, to scientists, and others, instead of being trapped in closed government systems," Sinai argued. "Open data is helping the federal government to be more efficient, effective, data driven, and transparent. We've seen the power of open government data in action, and it pays off."

Marina Martin, a former senior advisor to federal chief technology officer Todd Park, told Information Week that her long-term goal is to have one comprehensive, authoritative source for all public data, and for that source to be accessible for any citizen who wants it.

If this vision becomes a reality, government officials will need to make sure they maintain high standards for data quality throughout this undertaking. Information is a valuable resource for all citizens, but only if it's accurate and trustworthy.