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New Website Aims to Make Government Data Easier to Sift Through

For years, the federal government, states and some cities have enthusiastically made vast troves of data open to the public.

For years, the federal government, states and some cities have enthusiastically made vast troves of data open to the public. Acres of paper records on demographics, public health, traffic patterns, energy consumption, family incomes and many other topics have been digitized and posted on the web.

 

This abundance of data can be a gold mine for discovery and insights, but finding the nuggets can be arduous, requiring special skills.

 

A project coming out of the M.I.T. Media Lab on Monday seeks to ease that challenge and to make the value of government data available to a wider audience. The project, called Data USA, bills itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” It is free, and its software code is open source, meaning that developers can build custom applications by adding other data.

 

Cesar A. Hidalgo, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the M.I.T. Media Lab who led the development of Data USA, said the website was devised to “transform data into stories.” Those stories are typically presented as graphics, charts and written summaries.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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