We hope you are finding it easier to get the information you need on USDA.gov following the launch of our site redesign in March. We’ve already welcomed over 1 million visitors to the new site and we are pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received thus far. Our redesign makes it easier for you to get the news you care about quickly and get on with your busy life. Now, you can explore “USDA in Action,” an area designed to quickly share what’s happening across the department.
U.S. Department Of Agriculture
We’re excited to launch a complete redesign of USDA.gov featuring stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website. This has been a year-long project, but to do this right, we wanted to make sure we tapped into every possible resource.
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.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) made history today by releasing the first ever iBook version of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). And while a tome about the complex rules governing the federal government’s purchasing process may not sound like a bestseller, the FAR is essential reading not just for federal contracting officers and federal contractors, but owners of small (and large) businesses, too. “Basically, anyone who does or wants to conduct business with the government reads the FAR,” said Dan Briest, Program Manager of Acquisition.
Summary: EPA, FDA, and USDA unveil two documents as part of the Administration’s continuing effort to modernize the Federal regulatory system for biotechnology products. Today, the Federal government has taken an important step to ensure public confidence in the regulatory system for biotechnology products and to improve the transparency, predictability, coordination, and, ultimately, efficiency of that system. In 1986, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, which outlined a comprehensive Federal regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology products.
User-Generated Content (UGC) is a buzzword as of late, popularized recently due to the ever increasing demand for new content. To define the phrase, let’s look to a shining example of it,Wikipedia, as a source, “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats,tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.
Americans Use Public Data to Improve the Lives of Fellow Citizens Data is one of our most important national assets. It informs our policy and our national priorities. But as we have seen time and time again, the most effective way to govern is to engage with the public directly. Thanks to the President’s Executive Order requiring that agencies make data open, we are democratizing access to data.
In its seventh year as home to the U.S. Government’s open data, Data.gov continues to serve millions of people worldwide, from researchers and civic hackers, to businesses and citizens. These users have created apps, launched new products and services, and have improved transparency and openness, making the U.S. Government more accountable and responsive to the American people. Data USA, an online application developed by a team of data scientists at MIT Media Lab and Datawheel, backed by Deloitte is helping Americans visualize demographic and economic data using an open source platform.
USAGov recently released a list of six great federal government mobile apps. There were many apps released by the federal government over the last 5-6 years on a wide range of topics and services. Many are well-designed and useful to the American public. So, what are the outstanding federal government apps for 2016? The Department of State’s Smart Traveler. First launched in 2011, this mobile app helps international travelers find U.
Last month, I worked to create a “Citizen Science Passport” for the federal agencies participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Seven federal agencies offered some form of crowdsourcing or citizen science activity at their booths such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s exhibit on food safety or Environmental Protection Agency’s build-your-own air monitoring kit. Attendees would participate in each of the agency’s citizen science activity to receive a stamp on their passport.
The federal workplace is abuzz these days with talk about open data and how agencies can leverage that data through APIs. According to the federal Open Data Policy, data should be managed as an information asset, and making it discoverable and usable (in other words, open). Open data “not only strengthens our democracy and promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government, but also has the potential to create economic opportunity and improve citizens’ quality of life.
Enrolling veterans in retirement plans. Helping small farmers access credit. Surveying employees about their workspace. These projects might seem widely different from one another: they span different agencies and diverse audiences. But all three projects have been addressed by a new team in government that is helping agencies build things better, based on behavioral science. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) uses theories, research, and methods from the social and behavioral sciences to address and solve challenges faced by the public.
There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.
Standing on the corner, waiting in the rain, I swear I’ll never, ever, use that app again. Why? Because the bad user experience (UX) design was preventing me from determining when the Metrobus would arrive. UX is everything from the visual design to the navigation structure of the website or mobile app. This month, DigitalGov is focusing on UX design. Good UX design is based on understanding how people perceive and process information on everything from websites to mobile apps.
Innovators are made, not born. This summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began cultivating the next generation of federal innovators through a summer incubator boot camp, aimHI. AimHI is a pilot program to get high school students excited about careers in health information technology, medical devices and public service. Instead of traditional internships, which can be cost-prohibitive and focused on menial tasks, aimHI provides a free opportunity where students learn by doing and by creating their own experiences.
On October 19th, NIH brought together nearly 1,500 digital and health experts in person and via webcast. The event featured two keynote speakers and panels that showcased the unique perspectives of patients and caregivers, health communicators, health professionals and scientists. Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said we have entered the “third digital era.” First we connected documents, then we connected people.
I have to admit my knowledge of slugs and snails was limited to the familiar, slimy creatures in my garden that ate holes in leaves, flowers, vegetables—almost anything, really—and left silvery traces behind. The Terrestrial Mollusc Key mobile app from the Department of Agriculture was a revelation. The app, specifically designed to assist in the identification of adult terrestrial slugs and snails of agricultural importance, includes 33 families and 128 species.
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 well do you know your customers? There’s a new guide out from the Excellence In Government (EIG) Fellows Program to help you do just that. Led by the Partnership for Public Service, EIG is a federal government initiative to train future leaders. This year, three hundred federal employees took the EIG journey to learn about Values, Vision, Mission, Driving Results, Leading People, Leading Change, Building Partnership and Coalitions, Business Acumen, Synthesis and Celebration.
No one likes to be told no. This is especially true at work, when you’re moving toward something that you feel is in the best interest of your customers. But so often in government, our forward progress gets slowed down by others in our organization who we think “just don’t get it”—namely those in content, legal, procurement and security. A group of self-proclaimed naysayers came together to dispel myths and share advice to help everyone work together, during a panel discussion at the second annual DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit, held in May.
The DigitalGov platform helps federal agencies meet 21st century digital expectations, and we’ve planned our second DigitalGov Summit with this mission and your needs in mind. The theme is open and the agenda is packed with presentations about how “opening” data, content, contracts and talent makes digital citizen services better, more effective and even cheaper. Attending Virtually For our Summit this Thursday, we have an amazing line up of speakers and YOU can still sign-up to attend.
Spoiler Alert: Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because Americans are not sure if the food is spoiled. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that retailers and consumers waste 36 pounds of food per person each month. The USDA’s FoodKeeper app helps Americans avoid this problem by offering users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more.
Today, people rely heavily on insecure and inefficient means to access federal government applications to conduct business (i.e., they depend on usernames and passwords to log into federal agency services online). Users are required to create and manage several online accounts for different applications, which can become a nuisance, difficult to manage, and creates administrative burden for the organization. Additionally, with the abundance of these weak credentials (i.e., usernames and passwords that are easy to hack and difficult to trust), organizations – including the federal government – are left with minimal confidence in a user’s identity.
When browsing the various APIs offered by the federal government, you may have noticed that developers need to sign up for an API key. You may have also noticed that the documentation tells app developers to access the API using specified methods. Along with these two requirements, federal API creators have several ways to provide secure APIs for app developers and the general public. In this posting, I will describe how federal APIs are kept secure.
APIs and apps have been created for almost every aspect of human life. There are alarm clock apps, fitness apps, cooking apps, and personal finance apps, just to name a few of the thousands of apps available today. Most areas of society are well-represented in the app world except for one large portion of the American public—rural America. There need to be more apps for rural America. Fortunately, the U.
In my last posting, I argued that federal agencies should consider microservices architecture when releasing APIs. This is because allowing users to combine single-purpose apps together in unique ways helps people build personalized apps such as a driving map to local farmers markets. When given the opportunity, users will surprise you with the innovative creations they build from combining APIs. Just last week, the popular If This Then That (IFTTT) service released a federal-friendly Terms of Service.
For those of us who need to get our diet under control—and keep it that way—we surely have noticed the recent explosion of health apps and wearable fitness trackers. No doubt we’ve all thought about buying one of those at $100 to $150 bucks a pop even if we didn’t know for sure exactly what it did. My personal two-week obsession in wristband form came in sporty neon orange and provided me plenty of numbers to keep me busy making sense of it all.
Personas are tools your agency can use to learn about your end users and drive decisions. Personas are so useful because they serve as a communication tool for your team. You can keep these personas in mind to guide any work that your agency performs. Let’s delve a bit deeper into personas and review two examples from the federal community. Below, we have personas from the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Big news in the technology world as Microsoft unveiled HoloLens and Microsoft’s use of holographic computing in the upcoming Windows 10 release. Holographic computing or augmented reality uses computer-generated images that are overlaid on real world videos. For example, a user can view a car through their smartphone. An app can project information such as make and model, fuel mileage, and other facts onto a real-time view of a particular car.
The federal government collects an amazing amount of economic data. Several agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury, and the Census Bureau collect economic data, ranging from the stock market activity to local business conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects information on the labor market and is a rich source of data for researchers and the general public. The BLS offers two APIs for accessing labor data.
Recently, a reader pointed out that some of the APIs I write about are not really APIs but just datasets. Technically that is true but it only takes some development effort to turn a into an API. That is why I also highlight interesting federal datasets along with federal APIs. There are many federal datasets that should be APIs but how do agencies choose which datasets to build APIs?
According to some experts, over 80% of Americans will make a least one New Year’s resolution. There are the usual “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “exercise more” resolutions. Another popular set of resolutions involves learning new skills. So, if you are looking for a way to improve yourself while helping others, think about making a resolution to learn how to build a mobile app that can be used in disaster relief.
We are in the middle of the holidays, and that means much driving to visit friends and relatives. I was just in Kentucky this past weekend where I spent a total of eight hours driving. I am sure many of you will spend even more time driving in the next three weeks. So, where do you find the best gas prices and how can you maximize your vehicle’s fuel mileage?
The Peace Corps just released a new dataset that lists all of the countries and regions Peace Corps volunteers serve. The API is RESTful and uses the JSON format. You have read in earlier columns about the different data formats for APIs and how to read the data presented by an API. As a refresher, I’ve created the following quiz based on the excellent documentation for the Peace Corps Countries and Regions API.
When it comes to implementing a social media strategy, determining how to measure success can be challenging. Yes, knowing how many followers and likes you have is beneficial. However, to really get valuable results from the trove of social media data monitor, social media managers first need to understand what they are measuring and why. When you know your goals, you can determine what channels you will use to get there.
Are you like me? Do you consistently eat too much on Thanksgiving to avoid invasive family conversations that have a high probability of 1) turning awkward and 2) forcing you to abandon a sworn blood oath to never again reveal details of your private life to loved ones? Don’t be like me. It’s your holiday, too, and there’s no need to sit quietly at the table with a full belly and sweating.
The federal government captures almost every economic data trend through several agencies. The Federal Reserve of St. Louis offers 238,000 economic trends through FRED® (Federal Reserve Economic Data). FRED® data can be accessed through the FRED® website or the FRED® mobile app (Android | Apple). FRED® data can even be pulled into Excel through a free plugin. Developers can take advantage of the vast data resources of FRED® and its cousin, ALFRED® (ArchivaL Federal Reserve Economic Data).
Every year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics surveys nearly 80,000 households and over 143,000 individuals about crime victimization. What is unique about this survey is that both reported and unreported crimes data is collected. The survey has a well-documented API which offers data in the CSV, XML, and JSON formats. Let’s examine the documentation to determine how a developer could use the data in the app. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) API is split into “personal victimization” data and “household victimization” data.
Back in 2000, I worked at a dot-com building website applications such as a real-time stock ticker ribbon and a real estate listings search engine. One of my favorite applications was an app for mobile phones. At that time, I used the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), which displayed information using a special version of XHTML. Using the Kentucky Golf.com database, a user could search for information on a specific golf course by entering a ZIP code or using drop-down lists to search by county or course name.
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.
On September 6, 2013 at 11:27 p.m., EDT., viewers tuned in through the Internet to watch NASA launch its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. As viewers logged onto the website, something unusual happened. For the first time, metrics indicated that NASA.gov’s mobile users outpaced their desktop users. 93 percent of their viewers were watching the launch from a mobile device. At the time, NASA Web managers were already considering changing their website.
Want to know where the food you’re eating was produced? Here’s a handy trick before you head out to the grocery store: Download the Meat, Poultry & Egg Product Inspection Directory (MPI Directory) app produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. All containers of meat, poultry and egg products must be labeled with a USDA mark of inspection and establishment number, which is assigned to the plant where the product was produced.
Got a thing for dried botanicals? (No, not THOSE … but the stuff of fragrant sachets, decorative wreaths and glass jars filled with heavenly scents?) Before you discard your old potpourri or put some within reach of pets and children, you’ll want to take a look at this new app from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Dried Botanicals Key app for iOS and Android was designed for professional botanists and plant-enthusiasts alike to quickly identify the variety of dried (scented, bleached or color-dyed) fungi, fruits, seeds and leaves you’re likely to find at your local craft shops and gift stores.
Food deserts are areas where residents have little or no access to nutritional food. Food deserts exist because of low-incomes, lack of transportation, or too few stores that stock produce and other healthy food items. Governments from the local level to federal have implemented grant programs to encourage grocery store construction in the food deserts. Community activists have also worked to create food co-ops and encourage farmer markets to target the food deserts.
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.
As highlighted in this Trends on Tuesday post, time spent on mobile phones—about 3 hours per day—has surpassed that of daily PC usage. This yields a significant opportunity for consumer interaction with federal agencies’ mobile apps, not just websites, and social media outlets. To take advantage of new opportunities for consumer interaction, federal agencies are implementing social media as part of their mobile products. We surveyed the mobile products submitted to the Federal Apps Registry to see how agencies are incorporating social media into their mobile products.
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.
Around the D.C. area, one of the first signs of spring are the numerous farmers markets. In my neighborhood alone, I regularly visit four farmers markets that have a wide variety of produce and baked goods. Farmers markets are good for the local economy, and the easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables helps local communities. Realizing the importance of farmers markets, the USDA released the Farmers Market Directory API so that developers can create apps to help people find farmers markets in their area.
APIs and User Experience go together like gummi bears and ice cream. An API is a product just like a car, a website or a ballpoint pen. It’s designed to help someone do something. Products are either designed well—they meet expectations and deliver value—or they are designed poorly and create frustration and confusion. Inevitably, bad products are abandoned without a thought, like an old T-shirt with holes in it.
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
The White House launched a hub for consumer-facing tools across the federal government, and they want to feature your agency’s tools that can help make people’s lives easier. As of now, they are featuring tools from these agencies: Department of Education’s College Scorecard Department of Energy’s Hybrid Car Calculator & Home Energy Yardstick Department of Agriculture’s Local Farmer’s Market Map Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Credit Card Agreement Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Litigation Resource Center Check out the tools and let them know about the tools that should be added.
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.