An Online Dialogue to Shape Recovery.gov

Raymond Yee
Apr. 27 2009, 02:31PM EDT

recoverygovOn February 19, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law, putting into effect the $787 billion economic stimulus package to pull the American economy out of a severe recession.   On the same day, the federal government launched the website recovery.gov with the following aims:

  • Education: Explain the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act;
  • Transparency: Show how, when, and where the money is spent;
  • Accountability: Provide data that will allow citizens to evaluate the Act’s progress and provide feedback.

What can you see there at this moment?

It's fair to say that recovery.gov is a work in progress.   Indeed, recovery.gov is hosting a "national dialogue" this week (until May 3) to solicit ideas aimed at answering the key question:

What ideas, tools, and approaches can make Recovery.gov a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?

You can check out the current ideas the ones with highest votes, and ideas with the most comments.  At the School of Information at UC Berkeley, we made recommendations on how data feeds should be used to foster transparency around stimulus data,  in addition to developing prototypes of the types of visualizations one could do with such data feeds. It will be interesting to see how well the recovery.gov site actually does at aggregating a large number of proposals and surfacing the best ones.

ProgrammableWeb readers will naturally ask the question "So where's the API for recovery.gov?" (echoed in articles such as Activists call for a mashup-friendly Recovery.gov). Although recovery.gov, as well as the associated recovery sites for the agencies and states distributing funds, there is currently no recovery.gov API per se.  The current available data (much of it in Excel spreadsheets) has not been designed for easy parsing and repurposing. Moreover, there here are hotly debated issue of what data should be made available (e.g., should money distributed to subcontractors, and their subcontractors and so on, be reported?).  In future posts, we'll examine in greater detail how data around the stimulus is constructed, disseminated, and interpreted -- and the types of mashups that make use of any stimulus data.

Raymond Yee

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