Portal Opens with New Government Resource Site

A legislative column by Assemblyman Will Barclay

There is a new web site that I wanted to share with you this week called www.data.gov. The idea is simple: to connect people to government resources and with each other. The amount of information on the site is impressive and agencies and resources are continually being added. This site coincides with the federal government’s efforts to create a more open government. Though this does provide the public with information about how our public tax dollars are spent, it also organizes resources in an attempt to make things more accessible for the public.

The home page is divided into areas of interest, which include Data and Apps, Communities, Open Government, and Learn. Clicking on any one of these areas leads to hundreds of government agencies and sub agencies. There are 51 mobile apps under the Data and Apps area that you can download according to what you’re interested in learning more about. They include IRS2go, an app that lets you sign up for tax tips and to check your refund status. You can sign up for up-to-date news from the White House, learn how to prevent food borne illness and learn about health and safety information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. You can also download a Department of Labor timesheet to keep track of hours you worked for your employer, find out about science advancements through current research, and get the latest from the FBI’s most wanted list.

There is a health hotline, a way to track your gas usage, a Smithsonian app and a calorie counter called My Food-a-Pedia. You can even learn about NASA’s missions, information and satellite tracking and learn about ocean facts with the National Ocean Service.

The Communities area of the site is divided into six sections, which include health, energy, open government, law, restoring the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill, and a demonstration area for technology called “Semantic Web.” (This is a tutorial for how to use and view the site for those interested in developing apps to be connected to the site.) The site is a work in progress. The Department of Agriculture just linked to data.gov on Oct. 7 so there is a ways to go before it is truly a connected resource site but it’s a great start. States are also represented on the site.

I was encouraged to see how community developers and business folks can connect. I think this will be its real strength, connecting people to each others’ ideas and sharing approaches to developing neighborhoods and strengthening education. There is also a place for teachers to share approaches to educating our youth. It also highlights our international opportunities in education as well.

Connecting methods and communities can also influence the marketplace. This is great for states like ours, where our energy costs remain high. With OpenEI.org, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) combines data with the U.S. Census and SmartGrid.gov to compare seven cities with populations of roughly half a million. The site shows costs of energy for the average household and tells of how cities are saving or paying more and outlines energy incentives for businesses and residents, as well as provides details on how to apply.

As I said, it’s a work in progress and a couple of the links did not work properly but it’s a start toward connecting resources in the major aspects of our economy. Many of these programs have existed for some time and you may be familiar with some, like EnergyStar, but I think it provides more detail about programs and highlights what the government is focused on in a useful way.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.