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Apps for America Challenge; Data.gov

Posted on 9.01.2009

When anyone asks me how they can move their Web business forward, my response is usually the same: build an application (preferably one that engages its users to the point where you, the business, ultimately become the standard for the information/resource they need now and in the future).

Let’s take a step back for the beginners. An API is an interface that allows access to a service or body of code from a separate service or body of code. For instance, if you wanted to use Google maps on your website, you would have to make use of the Google maps API in order to get/display the information you want. Now, you don't have to actually do any programming involving the Google map system because that's all hidden behind the API. Pretty sweet, right?

Back to my initial point that applications are where it’s at and are what will move your business forward. There are numerous creative possibilities for applications but you’ll need to leverage API’s to tap into it. Thanks to an endless supply of data freely available (just check out our recent post Eight Great API’s for Your Next Website or Application) however, it’s increasingly simple. For example, with the recent launch of Data.gov, developers are able to access machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

Data.gov offers data in three ways: through a "raw" data catalog, using tools and through the geodata catalog. The "Raw" Data Catalog provides an instant download of machine readable, platform-independent datasets while the Tools Catalog provides hyperlinks to tools that allow you to mine datasets. There’s clearly a lot of potential in the data.

Some applications already created include RIDB (Recreation Information Database) – an XML extractable listing of US Government Recreation Sites). Another that was really impressive to me personally was the FBI Dataset, which features extraction of offense, arrest, and clearance data as well as law enforcement staffing information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.

Sunlight Labs is offering $25,000 in prize money for developers who create apps that use newly-released federal government data for it’s Apps for America (Data.gov Challenge). Data.gov is paving the way for citizens to become more engaged with their government, by providing for the first-time a clearinghouse of federal data in developer-friendly formats.

The Apps for America 2 contest aims to find the best applications that rely on Data.gov, whether it be a client application, an iPhone app, or data visualization. Also, the first, second and third prize winners will receive airfare and hotel placement for a trip to Washington DC. While in Washington, DC, they'll attend an awards ceremony at the Gov2.0 Summit by O'Reilly Media and TechWeb.

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