Update on Recovery.Gov

Recovery.gov is one of the first deliverables of the massive funding package better known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Mandated by ARRA, the site’s mission is to track all the funding distributed under the recovery legislation in order to promote transparency. USACM has argued that one of the most important things the government could do to promote transparency is to allow for users to download complete copies of publicly available data. This would promote the reuse of information and allow for much greater citizen participation and collaboration.

Recovery.gov is still in its infancy, but it is unclear whether the website will allow users to download complete copies of machine readable data published on the site. The following is from the site’s FAQ section:

Q: Is the spending data on recovery.gov available in a format (like XML) that developers can use to create mashups and gadgets?
A: Not at this time. But, as new systems are developed to capture the allocations and expenditures under the Act, we plan to make that data available in exportable form. (Back to Top)

We are glad to see this mentioned, but the answer doesn’t give useful details such as timelines and whether complete data sets will be available. To help clarify these issues USACM recently sent two letters (one to the Administration and one to Congress) with the following follow-up questions:

  1. What is the timeline for developing the systems that will capture the data required by the act?
  2. How long after these systems are deployed will the data be made available in machine-readable form?
  3. Will users be able to download all the data made available on this site, or will only part of it be available for download?
  4. What are the data elements that will be made available through Recovery.gov either through an Application Programming Interface or other mechanism?

As one USACM member put it, question number three is really the $300 billion question (which is the approximate size of the overall discretionary spending under ARRA).

We will post the Administration’s response on the weblog.

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