Public-Private Partnership through open data and APIs: Visit a hack event to learn more

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GCN recently wrote about efforts to deploy the US Digital Government Strategy and Open Data Policy…

Announced March 19, the program – named after GSA’s headquarters at 18th and F streets in Washington, D.C. – has gathered a team of 15 public- and private-sector digital technologists to create and release new software tools to support a range of public, commercial and government applications.

More than 20 open source code repositories generated by 18F are now available at github.com/18F. FBOpen is one of them. It’s an open API server, which offers data import tools and sample apps to help small businesses search for opportunities to work with the U.S. government,. The developers with the 18F program are taking data from the Federal Business Opportunities’ website, FBO.gov, and wrapping it in an open API server, and making the data searchable with a simple query. 18F also built a representational state transfer (REST) API for users to build their own query tools.

The result is source code that can be downloaded, updated and improved. It provides new functionality for small businesses that had difficulty finding this information before.

The explanations quickly get pretty geeky – if you like geeky, check out the article – or check out the GitHub site. Even if you don’t do geeky, I think it’s exciting at a high level. In short, the government is making more data available in more usable formats. By usable I mean something akin to machine language more than something your average citizen could pick up and use. It creates an opportunity for businesses and social entrepreneurs to use that machine-friendly data to create applications and tools that regular citizens can use.

If you’re interested in how this works or interested in being a part of the work, I suggest you try to attend a local hack event. At hack events, groups gather to talk about and/or implement ways that open data turns into useful tools. Planning has begun for Hack for Minnesota, but the planning is early. I’d also promote the Red Hot Hack – a hack event in Red Wing at the end of April. They are encouraging civic hackers and entrepreneurs to attend – as well as folks who interested in working with hackers. The event is free – I’m planning to attend and I’m always hoping to learn more!