Summary: Significant strides in improving public access to scholarly publications and digital data help usher in an era of open science. This week marks the 8th annual Open Access Week, when individuals and organizations around the world celebrate the value of opening up online access to the results of scholarly research. It is an opportune time to highlight the considerable progress that Federal departments and agencies have made increasing public access to the results of Federally-supported scientific research and advancing the broader notion of open science.
Federal agencies confront tough problems every day. In searching for solutions, agencies will want to attract different perspectives, test new products, build capacity and communities, and increase public awareness. How do they do it? The answer: open innovation. Federal agencies need to engage and collaborate with all sectors of society, a task made easier by online technologies, says a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last week. OPEN INNOVATION: Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives is accompanied by an infographic and podcast, all well worth your while.
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about microsites—CDC’s Zika Virus microsite provides up-to-date information on the virus—but the big question is: What are they? A microsite is a single or small collections of pages that are meant to encourage user interaction while conveying information. A microsite has the power to educate consumers regarding a specific topic or just highlight a campaign. Microsites are separate from an organization’s full website and are dedicated to serving one purpose—thus eliminating the clutter and distractions that come with a full website.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has invited transit agencies to share their schedule data to feed an upcoming National Transit Map. The new initiative won’t provide trip planning, but will make it possible for researchers, policymakers, and private citizens to identify and address gaps in access to public transportation. These gaps will be identified through the collection of transit data (including where transit stops are, how frequent transit service is, and where transit routes go.
Have you worked with an employee with a disability? Are you an employee with a disability? Then, you know the unique challenges of the average workplace that able-bodied colleagues may never experience. Workplace challenges could be overcome with accommodations such as larger computer monitor displays, wheelchair-accessible office furniture or a voice reader. In some cases, a mobile app is a solution to a workplace challenge. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Providing professional development for over 100,000 employees is no easy task. To build on the existing skills of their workforce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has piloted AgOpportunity, a program that matches USDA employees with projects that need their skills and interest. The idea for AgOpportunity came from the Partnership for Public Service’s Excellence in Government (EIG) Fellowship program. As part of the year-long program, fellows were split into teams and charged with creating a results-orientated program that could effect real change in government.
How can government protect citizens while delivering the services they demand in the modern age? This was a theme of the panel discussion on privacy and identity management at the 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. “Cybersecurity has really come a long way in the last 10 years, unifying the conversation about risk across organizations,” said Sean Brooks, panelist and privacy engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “but privacy has really lagged behind.
Adding customer satisfaction ratings and reviews to public services just got easier now that Yelp offers a terms of service for official government use. Yelp, a Web and mobile-based user review platform, hosts insights from “real people giving their honest and personal opinions on everything from restaurants and spas to coffee shops.” With the addition of Public Services and Government under the Yelp umbrella, agencies can continue to find new ways to use customer insights to improve citizen services.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to use accessible information and communication technology (ICT), whether procured, developed, or maintained. Since the U.S. Access Board issued regulations for the law in 2000, much implementation guidance has been prepared by various agencies. While the regulations are being refreshed to account for changes in ICT over the years, we can take advantage of existing guidance that applies accessibility guidelines in contemporary contexts.
The new app from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration called “QCMobile” empowers U.S. motorists to make safety their highest priority on the roadways this spring. This is a continued theme in DOT’s mobile strategy, as they have also recently released the SaferRide app. QCMobile (QC stands for “Query Central”) is a free download for anyone interested in reviewing the DOT registration and safety performance information of motor carriers.
Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently unveiled a new mobile app to help people who have been drinking get a safe ride home. The ‘SaferRide’ mobile app, gives holiday revelers an easy way to find a ride home when they’ve had too much to drink instead of getting behind the wheel. The app encourages potential drunk drivers to stay off of the road by helping them contact a close friend, find their location, and connect directly to a taxi company to secure a safe ride.
One death every 52 minutes. That’s how frequently someone died in crashes involving a drunk driver in the U.S. in 2013—10,076 deaths in total. While that number represents a 2.5% reduction in deaths from the previous year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is offering a new mobile app—called SaferRide—to save more lives. Simply put, SaferRide helps people who have been drinking to get a safe ride home.
This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.
The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.
You don’t need to be a rail buff to want to download the Federal Railroad Administration Rail Crossing Locator app. Parents, outdoor enthusiasts, emergency responders, school officials, motorists and many others will find value in locating area highway-rail crossings. The aim of the app is public safety and the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently added an Android version of the app. The Rail Crossing Locator app uses your current location to display nearby points on a map where a railway line crosses a road or path, as opposed to when a railway line crosses over or under a road via a bridge or tunnel.
Data.gov has 130,000+ datasets (as of November 3, 2014) many of which are designed for application developers. In previous columns, I’ve showcased some of the great applications built using federal APIs. Have you wondered where the idea for an app came from? Some developers start with an idea and then look for the API that best fits the idea. For example, a developer may want to create an app that alerts users of unsafe bus or limousine companies.
No Mobile Gov Month on DigitalGov would be complete without an update on the Internet of Things. Regardless if you’re talking wearables, smart homes, sensors or any other connected device, your current mobile approaches will be impacted—as will your social media, user experience and data strategies. When we last visited the topic in April, discussion in the federal government was minimal. That’s no longer the case. Just this month there were multiple panels about it at the Tech-In-State: Mobile Diplomacy event and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) was very active at the 2nd Annual Internet of Things Global Summit where FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez gave a keynote about challenges around IOT.
Mobile devices are moving closer to the center of the social universe, according to this Sproutsocial article. Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are overwhelmingly used on the go. Comscore predicts that there will be increasing monetization via social in the coming years. In the banking industry, where data shows many people have stopped going to brick and mortar banks, tying mobile and social together is critical. Organizations are increasingly adopting a SoLoMo approach in which they leverage the interplay between social, local and mobile.
With the start of “astronomical summer” later this week on June 21, that means two things: road trips and car buying. If you’re doing either or both, best be sure to grab the app for the SaferCar program from the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We blogged about the SaferCar app last year when NHTSA launched the app in iOS, and we are pleased to report that Android users have been brought into the fold with their own version for download on Google Play.
Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.
In May 2009, Data.gov was an experiment. There were questions: would people use the data? would agencies share the data? and would it make a difference? We’ve all come a long, long way to answering those questions, starting with only 47 datasets and having 105,000 datasets today. We realized that this was never simply about opening up government data, but rather about growing and nurturing an open data ecosystem to improve the lives of citizens.
Federal agencies are currently hard at work developing revised Open Government Plans—blueprints that are published every two years, highlighting agency progress towards making their work more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and outlining new open government commitments going forward. This iterative, biennial process grew out of the December 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget, which instructed executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to incorporate the principles of openness set forth in the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which he signed on his first full day in office.
E-books are great for one thing: reading on mobile devices. Their reflowable text adjusts to fit the reader’s smartphone, tablet or e-reader in the type size the reader chooses. They are essential for reading on smartphones, and better than pdf’s for all but the biggest tablets. But e-books are not great for design. They’re generally single column, with images “anchored” within the text flow. Graphical enhancements are very limited, and are supported differently (if at all) on different devices.
Mobile apps have the power to grant us access to data beyond our expectations, help us get things done easily and quickly, and have some fun, too. But what about apps that can potentially increase our personal and the greater public safety in our neighborhoods and communities? That’s the reason to get behind the Rail Crossing Locator, a mobile app from DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration for iPhone and iPad users.
Hosted API Tools Labs.Data.gov is a repository of shared services to prototype and provide developer resources to government agencies. Each tool uses Web services and lightweight, open source code to provide powerful functionality. Agencies are encouraged to improve any project and submit pull requests in order to share the improvements with others. API Standards Template With the open source release of the White House’s API Standards template, agencies have a complete model for API design and best practices that includes the best practices and agreed–upon norms of the developer community.
In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.