New York State's New Open Data API Increases Government Transparency

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Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that his office will be introducing an application-programming interface (API) that will allow application developers to access and use data from its NYOpenGovernment.com database.

NYOpenGovernment.com is an effort by the Attorney General’s office to promote the public’s right to know and monitor governmental decision-making; it is the only statewide resource that aggregates a range of sources for state government information – including data on campaign finance, lobbying, charities, state contracts, member items, corporate registrations, elected officials, and legislation – which is otherwise scattered or difficult to retrieve. The NY Open Government API will allow developers easier access to this data, which they can use in the creation of applications. Currently, the database is used by good government groups, reporters, and law enforcement agencies for analysis, general information, and even investigations.

“Giving the public direct access to this data will help shine a much-needed light on our state government,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “In an effort to make government more transparent and responsive, we are providing the public access to these tools. It’s long past time we brought transparency into the 21st century, and I look forward to seeing what analysis and applications are developed from the data."

Today’s announcement was made during Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. The introduction of an API for NY’s Open Government website will begin with testing by students at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) program. Eventually, the API will be open to the public and all interested developers.

An API is a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a web-based software application or tool. API’s allow app developers to query databases and build applications that rely on that data.

Currently, the NY Open Government databases can only be accessed through a simple search tool bar. The API will allow developers to build new graphical interfaces, devise algorithms for mining the data in innovative ways, create applications that join the Open Government information with other publicly available data, and a host of other potentially useful approaches. Other government agencies have begun to see the benefit of APIs, including the New York State Senate, New York State’s Open NY, and NYC OpenData. The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s API currently powers numerous apps that make navigating public transportation easier than ever before. Many popular media sites also offer APIs, including Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. 

This initiative is being led for the Attorney General's Office by Special Counsel Simon Brandler, Research Director Lacey Keller, Confidential Assistant Liam Arbetman, Information Technology Specialist Namita Mishra and Information Technology Specialist Kevin Ryan.

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