Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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Opening up government data

March 9, 2009Hop Skip Go

A Congressman from Silicon Valley, Mike Honda, introduced a provision in the spending bill that would force much of the government to make its data public. This Mother Jones article explains.

From the article:

 Tauberer expects that the availability of additional and easier-to-use congressional data will spur innovation. "You can expect to see other sites spring up doing new and interesting things with the information." He anticipates charts, graphs, and maps that represent congressional goings-on visually—"ways of visualizing the congressional process that we couldn't yet imagine." Honda, with his Silicon Valley roots, expects that developers and coders will quickly outpace the government's efforts to date. "We hope that we can learn from the wisdom of crowds," says Pierson.

This is an opening for data miners not only to ferret out waste and corruption, but also, I imagine, for politicians themselves to carry out operations research on their enemies.
Speaking of the government and data, here's a good primer from Ben Goldacre on why data mining for potential terrorists is so problematic. He clears up, as he puts it, the maths around false positives.

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