As Data.gov Goes Dark, 50 Startups Prepare to Take its Place

April 1, 2011
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the fiscal year, and we have no reasonable expectation to get more than a couple of millions of dollars [for Data.gov and the other seven websites].”

the fiscal year, and we have no reasonable expectation to get more than a couple of millions of dollars [for Data.gov and the other seven websites].”

Days before the Data 2.0 Conference opens in San Francisco on April 4, the U.S. government announced that Data.gov will be shutting down, alongside seven other government data projects such as apps.gov and USASpending.gov. According to Wikipedia, Data.gov was to “become a repository for all the information the government collects. The site would publish to the public any data that is not private, or restricted by national security reasons.”

Data.gov was the flagship project that spurred dozens of city, state and federal open data projects including DataSF. There were many reasons for governments to make their data accessible on portals like Data.gov including: transparency, crowdsourcing of curation and analysis, Internal issue-solving, volunteerism, and citizen engagement.

Budgetary concerns are seemingly the main reason for the shutdown. A government source indicated that, “The continuing resolution says we can only spend what we would reasonably expect to get during 

Technology and community leaders are up-in-arms about the shuttering of the sites. Dozens of startups including DataMasher.org are built on top of Data.gov data and now suddenly these innovators see their core value being taken away. From the perspective of the entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders at the Data 2.0 Conference, this is both a symbolic and material loss.

Yet, not all is lost: there are over 50 startups at the Data 2.0 Conference which specifically aim to make data accessible and useful with or without Data.gov.

As Nick Ducoff, CEO of InfoChimps, wrote:

“It would be very helpful if the government would devote its limited resources on simply pointing us to public data sets wherever they live in the wild. Socrata, Infochimps and others can do the rest of the heavy lifting (appending metadata, making the data findable, etc.). [U.S. CIO] Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park and others have been great cheerleaders for open data and I hope this doesn’t take the wind out of their sails.”

Several of the early-stage data startups pitching at the Data 2.0 Pitch Day (including DataMarket.com, Envirogent.org, opencorporates.com, opensignalmaps.com, and micello.com) are themselves new data sources giving businesses and consumers better access to data.

There are two perspectives here: on one side, Data.gov is a public good and the government should invest in its own transparency. On the other side, the government only strictly needs to provide some sort of access to the underlying data and rely on apps like InfoChimps or DataMarket for the heavy lifting.

What is really exciting, though, is that over 400 data enthusiasts will gather at the Data 2.0 Conference this coming Monday, April 4 and hear directly from the open government thought leaders like Jay Nath, Director of CRM, City of San Francisco, and Kevin Merritt, CEO of Socrata.

We look forward to the great discussions and conversations on the subject of the Data.gov shutdown.

A limited number of tickets are still available for the Data 2.0 Conference — join the data conversation and register now.