I have had a passion when it comes to open data for a number of years. Each time the federal budget has come out in the last 10 years, I would parse the PDFs, and generate XML, and more recently JSON, to help me better understand how our government works. I’ve worked hard to support open data and APIs in the federal government since 2012, resulting in me heading to Washington DC to work on open data projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a Presidential Innovation Fellow (PIF).
I understand how hard it is to do open data and APIs in government, and I am a big supporter of those in government who are working to open up anything. I also feel there is so much work left to be done to augment these efforts. While there are thousands of datasets now available via Data.gov, and in the handful of data.json files published by federal agencies, much of this data leaves a lot to be desired, when it comes to actually putting it to use.
As people who work with data know, it takes a lot of work to clean up, and normalize everything–there is just no way around this, and much of the government data that has been opened up, still needs this janitorial work, as well conversion into a common data format like JSON. When looking through government open data you are faced with spreadsheets, text files, PDFs, and any number of other obscure formats, which may meet the minimum requirements for open data, need a lot of work to get it truly ready for use in a website, visualization, or mobile application.
Adopta.Aency is meant to be an open blueprint, to help target valuable government open data, clean them up, and at a minimum, convert them to be available as JSON files. When possible, projects will also launch open APIs, but the minimum viable movement forward should be about cleaning and conversion to JSON. Each project begins with forking the Adopta Blueprint, which walks users through the targeting, cleaning, and publishing of data to make it more accessible, and usable by others.
Adopta.Agency employs Github repositories for managing the process, storage and sharing of data files, while also acting as gateway for accessing the APIs, and engaging in a conversation around how to improve upon data and APIs available as part of each project (which is what APIs are all about). Adopta is not a specific technology, it is a blueprint for using commonly available tools and services, to move government open data forward one or two steps.
We feel strongly that making sure government open data available in a machine readable format, can be a catalyst for change. Ironically, even though this data and APIs are meant for other computers and applications, we need humans to step up, and be stewards of an ongoing portion of the journey. Government agencies do not have the skills, resources, and awareness to do it all, and when you actually think about the big picture, you realize it will take a team effort to make this happen.
Adopta.Agency is looking to define a Github enabled, open data and API fueled, but ultimately human driven network to help everyone realize the potential of open data and APIs in government — please join us today.