Microsoft Open Government Data Initiative to Help Foster Transparency and Collaboration

REDMOND, Wash. — May 7, 2009 — As part of Microsoft Corp.’s ongoing open government efforts aimed at helping government organizations meet goals of transparency, citizen participation and agency collaboration, the company today unveiled its Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), and will be releasing a collection of software assets that allow government agencies and developers to publish and interact with their data in Windows Azure, the company’s cloud computing platform.

“Government organizations at every level are looking to the IT community to provide value, interoperability and choice as they strain to meet the tracking, reporting and engagement demands necessary to serve citizens,” said Curt Kolcun, vice president of U.S. Public Sector at Microsoft. “Microsoft is helping customers connect the dots of information-sharing to bring open government to life — from extending the capabilities they already own to enabling secure, innovative transformation in the cloud.”

Open Government Data Initiative

As data becomes both increasingly necessary and readily available in response to demands for transparency, collaboration and participation, methods need to be developed to allow for interaction with that data. To help public sector entities meet these demands, Microsoft’s OGDI provides an Internet-standards-based approach to house existing public government data in Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, called Windows Azure. The approach makes the data accessible in a programmatic manner that uses open, industry-standard protocols and application programming interfaces (APIs). A reference beta site showcases an implementation of a data service in Windows Azure, using a sample of publicly available government data.

Typically, federal, state and local government data is available via download from government Web sites, which requires citizen developers to host and maintain the data themselves. Through OGDI, Microsoft is highlighting the importance of programmatic access to government data (versus downloading the data). When government agencies provide programmatic access to data, people who want to build solutions that use that data will benefit from these capabilities:

  • The ability to write programs that access data via Web-friendly programming methods without having to download or host the data

  • The ability for governments to automatically refresh data without having to buy and maintain servers

  • The ability to write applications using any technology via open standards

  • Easier access to a broad array of government datasets, which will enable them to build new and unique applications

“OGDI-based solutions not only provide easy access to government data, but also demonstrate how cloud computing can significantly reduce the cost, complexity and time to market for solutions that consume the data,” said Daniel Kasun, senior director of the U.S. Public Sector Developer Evangelism Group at Microsoft. “Developers will be able to focus solely on solving the business needs of government agencies, resulting in a breadth of new solutions in a very short amount of time.”

The source code for OGDI is publicly available on CodePlex, Microsoft’s open source hosting site, so that developers can reuse and provide feedback. In addition, sample code is also provided for technologies widely used on the Web, such as PHP, Python, Flash, JavaScript, Silverlight and more.

Government organizations interested in making their public data available for developers to work with through the Open Government Data Initiative should contact [email protected]. More information on Microsoft’s Open Government Data Initiative can be found online.

Helping Ensure Transparency, Choice and Interoperability

The Open Government Data Initiative is another piece of Microsoft’s Open Government effort, built on the foundation of transparency, choice and interoperability. For open government to become a reality, citizens and agencies will require access to public data that is standards-based and interoperable at every level of government. As most federal, state, local and education entities implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), they can meet open government goals of oversight, transparency and accountability through cloud and on-premises solutions such as Microsoft Stimulus360.

Microsoft, like many in the IT community, participated in the new administration’s National Dialogue process, suggesting news ways to bring about open government, accountability and improvement to the reporting and monitoring process around

More information about open government solutions such as Stimulus360 is available online.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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