The U.S. Federal Government has been making a push to increase accessibility to data managed and maintained by various government agencies and departments. Recently Business.USA.gov, the government's official web site for small businesses (sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration), has released an API that provides access to various types of data that will can benefit small businesses.
The Business.gov Web Service is a RESTful API that provides access to the same information that can be accessed using the site's core search tools (technical summary at our new Business.gov API profile).
The API provides access to four key sets of data, including:
- Loans & Grants Search:
This data set provides a collection of links to Federal, state, and local financial assistance programs that help small businesses get started or expand operations. Each program is categorized to 15 dimensions, from loan type to business activity, industry group and location.
- Business Licenses & Permits:
This data set provides a collection Federal, state and local licenses, permits and registrations small businesses need to operate.
- U.S. City & County Web Data:
This geographic names data set provides a "mashup" of URLs for city and county web sites and city and county location data from the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). GNIS data includes incorporated places, census designated areas, unincorporated places, counties, and populated places.
- Recommended Sites:
This data set includes links to federal, state and local websites that are boosted to the top of organic search results for "long-tail" queries to improve the relevancy of web search results.
Developers will be pleased to learn that the API is free, and it allows for unlimited queries. Data is provided in either XML or JSON formats, and according to the Business.gov site "the API is regularly synchronized to ensure that all updates are immediately available."
Though at first it may appear subtle, this API provides access to much sought after information, and there's potential for mashups and apps that could contribute to the success of small businesses around the US. According to the web site:
In 2003, businesses and citizens spent approximately 8.2 billion hours and $320 billion filling out paperwork and complying with government regulations, according to a report by the Small Business Paperwork Relief Task Force. Small business owners spend considerable time navigating multiple websites to get information they need to comply with regulations and to find government assistance programs.
The API is quite new, having just been released last week. This is an API with interesting potential and we look forward to seeing how this newly available data is utilized by the developer community.