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DOT meets Executive Order, opens data for public use

DOT meets Executive Order, opens data for public use

Photo of DOT CIO Richard McKinneyIn addition to Small Business Saturday, November 30 was also a critical deadline for DOT to reach some of the milestones in President Obama's Executive Order on Open Data. I'm happy to say that this Department has met its obligations.

But, more than just meeting our requirements, opening our data is about unleashing the power of information for public use.

The Federal Government collects and creates a vast amount of statistical, economic, financial, geospatial, regulatory, and scientific data, but much of it remains in unusable formats or trapped in government systems where it can't be accessed by the public.  Even when it was technically available online, it could be hard to find...and even harder to use.

Over the past few years, the Obama Administration has launched a series of Open Data initiatives, which, for the first time in history, have released valuable data sets that were previously hard to access in areas such as safety, energy, and transportation.

As part of those initiatives, DOT has made more than 2,000 data sets public, accessible, and reusable. And already, that data is making a difference in people's lives.

For example several different data sets from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration come together in the SaferCar app that vehicle shoppers can use to compare NHTSA 5-Star Crash Test Ratings for different models; parents can use to locate a child safety seat installation site; and car owners can use to track recalls.

Motorcoach safety information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration powers the SaferBus app that allows bus passengers to check the safety record of their carrier and driver before they board or buy a ticket.

And a railroad crossing data set from the Federal Railroad Administration makes it possible to learn about the safety of rail crossings in your neighborhood.

Many of our highest-value data sets, like NHTSA's FARS (Fatalities Analysis Reporting System), can also be used for transportation research and to set safety priorities. That's why we've taken the lead on the Federal Government's safety data initiative, http://www.data.gov/safety.

More apps and information awaits development from DOT open data, and we will continue to encourage the tech community to take advantage of opportunities to inform Americans and help keep them safer. We'll complete an enterprise data inventory by next November, and we’ll continue listening to feedback from stakeholders and the public about where we should focus our data efforts.

There is much more work to be done before the power of all of this data can be harnessed into useful information in the hands of researchers as well as everyday consumers. And until that work is completed, DOT will continue to lead on open data.

Richard McKinney is the Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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