After the announcements from Google and Amazon, both of which I have covered in previous posts, it is now Microsoft’s turn to play in the space of open government data, a term that has received significant “stimulus” (not financial tough) from the the new US administration through its announcements and activities around both recovery.gov and data.gov.
With its Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), Microsoft offers – like its competitors – to host public data on its cloud platform (Windows Azure). Unlike them, though, the emphasis is on providing developers (inside and outside government) with the tools they need to access and mash up such information.
The data set used to illustrate the approach are those from the District of Columbia. A relatively easy choice, as they have been used for a long time as a best practice example in this area. I also wonder whether they have been chosen also to tease the US CIO (Vivek Kundra was CTO in DC), but I guess that does not hurt.
The question that remains unanswered is: to what extent would the Microsoft OGDI succeed in moving government agencies and departments to make their data more easily available? In this respect Google’s approach, based on Google extracting data from wherever they are and presenting them in a more easily consumable fashion, may sound more attractive to jumpstart the publication of data. On the other hand it is not clear which data would be chosen and published.
Quite clearly a combination of both approaches is what is needed. The ability to extract and transform data, one or more platforms to make them available, and tools to combine them to create the perceived value that is at the basis of the whole open public data idea.