29 digital tools inspired by US open government data

Participants range from big names like LinkedIn and AirBnB to non-profits and students.

The United States has launched 29 new digital tools built using government data by students, non-profits and companies, including Linked, Fitbit an AirBnB. President Barack Obama launched the Opportunity Project in March 2016 to “catalyse the creation of new digital tools that use federal and local data to empower communities”, the White House said earlier this month. The new tools address six national issues identified by federal agencies: educational equity, transit safety, mental health, unemployment, affordable housing and rural development. The government curated useful data at opportunity.census.gov to give developers easy access. Mental health and emotional wellbeing was identified one priority. Fitbit built a tool to help policymakers understand the relationship between exercise and common health challenges like obesity, heart diseases and diabetes. Another tool assesses patients with suicide risks and provides them with resources. And a third was built using smartphone data to identify nearby hazards and resources for people in mental health crises. Housing access and affordability is another priority. AirBnB used housing rental data to help people identify ways to cover their costs by renting out extra rooms. Two tools help people assess overall cost of living by combining information on affordable housing, transport, schools and local amenities. A fourth tool is meant to help policymakers understand the relationship between residential segregation and disconnected youth. The Department of Education identified access to information on education opportunities as a priority. Three tools built using open data include a map to help schools find non-profits to partner with; dashboard to measure gaps in access to education; and comparison of funding across schools. Three tools were built to help improve transport access and safety. One tool helps answer common questions on traffic fatalities, cost of commuting, mobility for poor people and access to employment. Another maps accident-prone traffic corridors. A third finds areas that lack access to transport using commuter volume data. A fifth priority is unemployment. One tool was built to help people find career opportunities in the public sector. LinkedIn used labour data to identify education opportunities for job seekers. Another two tools match people with jobs in their area and help companies alert job seekers to vacancies. The sixth national priority is rural development. Here a tool called FindYour.Town helps donors find funding opportunities in rural communities. The Department of Commerce will lead the Opportunity Project to ensure that a “lasting platform” is build for technologists to collaborate with government. New data will have to be continuously released to sustain the project. For instance, the education and labour departments have committed to releasing new APIs to give access to more data.