Data.gov and other transparency sites to be shut down due to budget cuts

March 31, 2011  |  Data Sources

Last week, there were rumblings over the end of the Statistical Abstract, and I suggested that it was just a sign of changing technologies. I thought that Data.gov and similar sites were the natural progression. Here's the problem with that argument. Congress is planning on shutting down Data.gov and other transparency sites in the next few months.

So not only was I wrong, but now we're taking steps backward. The budget for these technologies will be cut from $37m to $2m. According to Federal News Radio, USASpending.gov and Apps.gov/now will remain online until July 30 and then go black soon after.

For some reason it costs $4m just to keep USASpending operating for a year. Really?

As for Data.gov, it has always felt rough around the edges since launch and never got off the ground. There's a lot of data there, but it's old. Still, it is a sign of progress, and there is so much potential there that it's a shame to see the efforts that have already been put in go to waste. Plus, when you compare the cuts to the billions of dollars spent elsewhere, it's sad how little value these sites have.

Or maybe what's sadder is that $37m wasn't enough to build something worth keeping. I wonder how Data.gov.uk is doing. Hopefully better.

Do you want to see these sites keep going? Sunlight Foundation has an open letter to Congress seeking signatures.

However, here's the million dollar question: is Data.gov worth saving?

[Federal News Radio & Sunlight Foundation via ReadWriteWeb]

11 Comments

  • This is incredibly upsetting. Of all the things to cut, why cut one of the governments main vehicles of transparency. I understand it costs a lot of money but on a governmental level, the price to pay versus the benefit does not add up. Taking away the data will only serve to hinder the government’s reputation. What are we hiding?

  • April fool??? Hope so!

  • 3rd Worlder April 1, 2011 at 1:32 am

    This is very, very sad.

    I thought this was a great example how government could transparently provide information to the public and possibly provide a source of income through people providing services.

  • This is worrying. Even though data.gov was a little bit flaky it was perceived to be more of a statement of intent and seen as the US leading by example. Now the clock is being turned back I fear for the impact on other national transparency and openness initiatives. Will we find that other governments see this as justification for maintaining closed systems?

    • Michael D April 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      I agree with Julian. The demonstration of intent and leadership lost that are both troubling and will have substantial negative impact both for our immediate domestic, and longer-term international standing. A definite large step back for openness, transparency, and therefore accountability.

  • BobBobberson April 1, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Point is though is that this stuff is just really expensive. Why can’t data nerds like us run a collaborative wiki of government data or something? If Data.gov is just an aggregator of other departments, then why can’t we just start a website and link to the government sites ourselves.

  • Or why can’t the government do that and save $37m?

  • Mario Huezo April 4, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Hi, I’m from El Salvador and I agree with what Julian said. If this is happening in developed countries, just imagine what the developing countries’ governments will do. Transparency is a big problem in developing countries and budgets are very small, so they’ll just decide not to apply any kind of transparency-oriented policy, and won’t feel bad for it because even the big governments like US’ do it.

  • there are probably policy analysts who performed the cost-benefit analysis and recognized that after x amount of time passed, there weren’t enough benefits to the public to justify maintenance and operations.

    it is a tragedy. but such is the game of politics. the game allows constituents to voice their opinions to their elected representatives. the reality is that transparency and making data open does not rank high up on the list of winners for politicians.

  • The republican congress is hamstringing the transparency budget so the GOP can later on accuse Obama of failing to come through on his promise to increase the government’s transparency. Same way the republicans refuse to compromise on radical budget cuts and then accuse the democrats of shutting down the government.

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