Use of Digital Analytics Program: Beyond the Numbers

National Park Service ArrowheadThe National Park Service website,, is home to sites for the parks, programs, and subject-related content about the places and ideas that we preserve and protect for the American people. With roughly a thousand content authors dispersed across the country, receives nearly 50 million page views per month during the peak summer season, when visitors are planning their vacations.

In February 2013, the NPS migrated from Adobe SiteCatalyst to the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) solution. From the very beginning, our goal has been to give content authors the necessary tools and knowledge to use analytics to gain an understanding of how visitors are using their pages and where they can make improvements to their content.

As part of the transition to DAP, one of the key tasks for us was to equip our users with the right tools and information to make the transition a success. So, we created a Getting Started Guide to allow website content authors to register for access to the DAP tool (~ 250 users), as well as give authors basic information on how to access standard reports, import custom reports and dashboards, understand sampling, and set up campaigns. For example, instead of having to create custom reports for each individual site, we can allow users to import a shared custom report and then modify the filtering to match their sites.

To further help our DAP users, an analytics team looked at some of the more commonly needed tasks and created reports for items, such as video plays, external links, and visits to site folders.  To help authors gain key insights into the metrics, and to understand how to use these numbers and reports to improve their pages, we created an Interpreting Your Analytics guide and presented a few webinars. Webinar topics included:

  • Improving content (e.g., park homepage features and links) based on items frequently searched for within a specific site
  • Using a weighted sort on the bounce rate to figure out what content might need improving
  • Understanding the Navigation Summary reports to see the visitor’s path on a site and adjust content accordingly

NPS Teacher Portal Once the users were trained and the baseline for the traffic and metrics was established, we started using campaigns in DAP to measure the effectiveness of our website promotional efforts. For instance, in September 2013, the NPS launched a new Education Portal for teachers, which was promoted through many digital avenues such as email, promotional web links, social media, etc.

To help us determine which promotional methods were most successful and at what times of the day (this was especially important for social media posts), as well as which methods we should focus on for the next promoted event, we set up a campaign and used the results to make those conclusions. We also created a real-time dashboard to allow us to see the current number of visitors, active pages, visitor location, and through which campaign source visitors entered the site as the events were being promoted.

As we move forward with DAP, we plan to continue refining our site’s goals and using DAP analytics to verify our success.

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Digital Analytics Program Goes To The Moon!

NASA logoNASA joined the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) and started using Google Analytics Premium on Feb. 1, 2013. We saw its power almost immediately.

On Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia. Users flocked to for info, and we spiked to nearly 12 million page views that day, ~16 times the daily average. Our real-time analytics showed over 300,000 active visitors on the site at peak, about 100 times more than normal traffic.  And, not surprisingly, we could see a huge chunk of this traffic was coming from Russia.

Before joining DAP, we used Urchin for analytics. Urchin is great at handling the raw tonnage, and we do miss some of its features, but, we never had the insight into real-time events that we have now.  Even data that was always there in Urchin is now much easier to access and cross-reference with other data in the Google Analytics interface.

We always see the expected spikes with mission events like launches or landings, but we now also often see the unexpected:  for example, a story we’re not even promoting much goes viral on Reddit, or mobile use goes way up because of an Angry Birds update that’s pushing traffic to our website.

LADEE Launch: A Mobile Event

On Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, we launched the Lunar Atmospheric Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, on a mission to the moon.  What made this different from any other launch?  People up and down much of the Eastern Seaboard were able to see LADEE streaking through the sky on the way to orbit.  Our analytics suggested that people were watching their mobile devices while they were watching the skies.

At peak, we saw this incredible chart — more than half of our traffic was coming from mobile, and nearly two-thirds was coming from mobile and tablets:

RIght Now 34,669 active visitors over 1/2 from mobile!

The leading locations were in the area where people could watch the launch – Maryland/DC/Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, with California also in the mix (the mission is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley).

Zooming in on one of the top locations – Alexandria, VA — we could see an astonishing 86% were using either an iPhone or Android phone:

87% of the views in Alexandria VA were on mobile devices (ios and android)

In addition to the mobile insight, we got our usual traffic metrics:

  • 37K active visitors at launch, most visiting the LADEE mission page
  • 67,000 simultaneous webcast streams going out at launch (including UStream, not measured with GA)
  • 100K total live video stream plays for the day, about a 10-fold increase
  • 1.8 million page views to, about 2-3 times higher than average
  • Mobile page views 1-2 times higher than average
  • More than half of traffic was direct or Google Search
  • 56% of NASA TV page traffic was from referrals, 13% of traffic to that page came from

All told, this added up to our third-biggest traffic day since we started using DAP GA in February:

Traffic spikes Feb 2013 Russian meteor, Sept 2013 LADEE

Frog Footnote

And, it turned out the LADEE launch wasn’t done impacting our traffic. The week after launch, a photo went viral on the Internet showing an airborne frog “photobombing” the launch.  At mid-day on September 12, “frog” is our number two search term, trailing only perennial champion “mars.” The frog photo and a related photo showing a bat clinging to the space shuttle during a 2009 launch are our top two pages on (excluding the home page).

We never know when traffic will make this sort of unexpected leap, but we have the DAP data to show us when it does.

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Kicking Off New Digital Analytics Program (DAP) Help For Agencies

Small cutout of realtime analtyics dashboard

The Digital Analytics Program (DAP) is delighted to announce the launch of a DAP user group and new training program. These initiatives will support DAP users in getting the most from their DAP implementation.

The kick-off for the DAP user group will be on Thursday, September 12, 2013, when we will host a webinar to welcome DAP users and discuss how a user group can provide the most benefit. Meeting invitations with login instructions will be sent to directly to DAP users two weeks before the meeting.

The User Group will meet monthly to discuss topics of interest including:

  • Creating Google Analytics Dashboards and Reporting from DAP
  • Working with Google Analytics Data Sampling Limits
  • Updates on DAP Code Releases

Additionally, the DAP training program will provide monthly training blog posts published on the DigitalGov blog. Training topics will include discussions on advanced segments, custom reports and topics identified in the DAP User Group.

The DAP was launched by the Digital Services Innovation Center as part of the federal Digital Strategy to support agencies in reporting analytics across all websites to ensure that the American people can easily find government services – essential to easing access to government information.

The DAP User Group and the training posts are meant to educate and empower the DAP users to get the most out of the DAP Google Analytics data, so submit your DAP discussion topics and suggestions to today.

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Improving our digital services to better serve you

Throughout this past year, the National Archives and Federal agencies have been working to implement the Digital Government Strategy by improving digital services to better serve you.

We’ve worked toward specific milestones that improve access to government information and we launched to report on our progress.  We sought your ideas for improvement in August and now you can see our progress toward making available mobile appsand web APIs.

Mobile:  We’ve mobile optimized, released a mobile site for Presidential Documents, and a mobile app called “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which makes available photos, documents, and recordings from the related exhibit.

Screenshot of Smartphone Pres Docs

Presidential Docs Mobile Site

Screenshot To the Brink Mobile App

To the Brink Mobile App 

Web APIs: We’ve expanded the API to include the Public Inspection Desk and integration with  We’ve also included created an interactive dataset and API for Executive Orders from 1994 to 2012 on

We continue to increase the records we make available on sites like Wikipedia and Flickr, which have robust mobile and web API capabilities.  These projects, in addition to our work on the Digital Public Library of America, greatly expand public access to government records.

Map of National Day of Civic Hacking

Engaging Developers:  We launched to promote innovative uses of our data and tools in the public and private sectors.  We’re participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2, 2013, by sponsoring several challenges related to visualizing historical datasets and developing a mobile app for researchers to easily upload digital images of historical records.  We’re looking forward to see what innovative solutions might be developed by the public.

All of our efforts, however, are only a piece of the larger Federal Government effort to improve digital services.  You can check out other agencies’ developer hubs and new mobile services and APIs, including a new API for the State Department’s Office of the Historian Ebook Catalog, which contains all of the ebooks from the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

Reblogged from NARAtions, the blog of the National Archives, with a hat tip to OCIO.GOV

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One-Year Anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy: HUD Releases Two APIs

The Digital Government Strategy, which was published on May 23, 2012, set out to accomplish three things:

  • Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
  • Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.
  • Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our Nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.

In order to better communicate with the public, HUD is making information available through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices.  Our goal is to make our services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

To date, we have released two APIs, which are located at The Housing Counselor Web Service allows searching by name, city, state, and current location to find information regarding Housing Counseling Agencies. The Section 3 Business Lookup allows searching by location, zip code, and business type to find information on Section 3 businesses. To learn about Section 3, visit.

These APIs are for public use and are intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access HUD data in ways that make it easier to use and program.  The release of this data, in alignment with the new Open Data Policy, will help achieve the goal of making previously inaccessible or unmanageable data easily available to entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, and others who can use the data to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs.

Today, nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone. In May of last year, when the Digital Government Strategy was released, that number was only 35% of adults. Recently, HUD launched the first housing discrimination app to provide the public with a quick, easy and safe way to learn about their fair housing rights and, whenever necessary, file fair housing complaints. The housing discrimination app is available in the iTunes store.

The Fair Market Rents app, which is a map-based app that allows users to search Fair Market Rents and income limits by current location or by metropolitan area, county, zip code and/or address is also available to the public.  The app may be downloaded from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research’s website.

To learn about HUD’s digital strategy, and you can see more.

Reposted from The HUDdle blog of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Make Mobile Gov with the Mobile Application Development Program

Mobile Application Development ProgramAnytime, Anywhere, Any Device.

The 21st century imperative to deliver government information and services to the public anytime, anywhere and on any device makes mobile a critical tactic in the federal Digital Government Strategy. Today, GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center and the Federal CIO Council launch the Mobile Application Development Program to provide agencies with tools they need to make great mobile products available to the public.

The program–developed with and by 25 agencies across government–will help agencies in each stage of mobile development.

  • Plan –Build a mobile strategy, see what other agencies have done, use new acquisitions tools to find top mobile developers.
  • Develop –Create great mobile apps and sites using mobile user experience guidelines. Jump start development by leveraging pre-existing code.
  • Test –Make sure your app works on all devices by leveraging automated and in the wild testing support. Test for security & accessibility.
  • Launch –Let people know yours is an official government app by registering it. Get your app in the app stores and leverage API’s for promoting your apps.

What’s In It?

The program is chock full of useful resources and tools. For starters there is

  • RFP-EZ helps link agencies and small businesses for tech projects below $150,000–definitely a sweet spot for many mobile products. The idea is to help agencies reach the talent in startups more quickly and at reasonable cost. We worked with the RFP-EZ team at SBA to include mobile statement of work templates. Now when agencies create a new project in RFP-EZ, they can jumpstart their efforts by choosing the “Mobile Application Development” project type.
  • Agencies can easily create mobile ready websites using This GSA-hosted content management tool supports open content, is secure, compliant and uses only responsive themes that work well on any-sized screen.

The Federal Apps Registry helps verify that apps and mobile sites are actually government mobile products–and provides an API so agencies can easily create galleries around their mission areas.

Just Do It

You can use these and many more tools and resources today. And, you can join us for a discussion about the Mobile Application Development Program May 30th at our webinar, or come see us live later that day at our Mobile Gov Wikithon.

Last, we need YOU to help us as we continue to develop new tools to help you develop citizen-focused mobile products. Tell us what you need at

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Federal Mobile Code Sharing Catalog Is Here

Federal agencies have a new resource to help them make content and services available anytime, anywhere, and from any device–the federal Mobile Code Catalog sponsored by the Digital Services Innovation Center.

This catalog is hosted on GitHub (more on why that matters in a moment). Here, agency developers looking to jump-start their efforts can find source code for native and web projects from a variety of sources: federal agencies, other governments, and third-parties in the private sector.

Developers can access whole frameworks for a mobile web site, modular code to solve common problems, or even links to complete apps to use as a template for their own apps.

More than code

It’s not all about code, though.  Any successful mobile program needs to be able to test the quality and the accessibility of their apps.  The catalog also includes  test scripts to help your agency validate the functionality and accessibility of their app.  You can also find links to data, APIs and other federal developer pages.

The Mobile Code Catalog is hosted on GitHub for a reason.  In addition to the form that agencies can use to submit their open source project or resource, the catalog itself can be “forked.”  Forking the catalog is the process of making a copy of it so improvements can be made without affecting the original copy.  Those improvements can then be submitted to us through what’s called a “pull request.”  If everything’s in order, we’ll incorporate those improvements with just a few clicks.

What’s next

This catalog has been initially populated with the cooperation from several agencies, but the work is not done. Over the next few months we will be hosting events but we need you.

  • Are you a government mobile innovator with some code you’ve developed to share? Submit your code.
  • Are you a developer who wants to tweak one of the existing government apps or modules? Fork the content and make a pull request.
  • Are you looking to get involved in government mobile code sharing? Ask your questions.
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Solve the Outbreak (Mobile) Application from CDC

Get clues about outbreaks, analyze the case and save lives in a fun engaging iPad app from CDC.

Introducing CDC’s new iPad app: Solve the Outbreak (Where you get to be the disease detective!)

New outbreaks happen every day and CDC’s disease detectives are on the front lines, working 24/7 to save lives and protect people. When a new outbreak happens, disease detectives are sent in to figure out how outbreaks are stared, before they can spread. In our new, free iPad app, you get to Solve the Outbreak.

In this interactive, engaging app, you get to decide what to do: Do you quarantine the village? Talk to the people who are sick? Ask for more lab results? The better your answers, the higher your score – and the more quickly you’ll save lives. You’ll start out as a Trainee and will earn badges by solving cases, with the goal of earning the top rank: Disease Detective.

Fun to play and learn

Perfect for teens, young adults, and public health nerds of all ages, Solve the Outbreak is a great way to take the study of epidemiology outside the classroom.

  • Learn about diseases and outbreaks in an engaging way.
  • See how disease detectives save lives around the world.
  • Try your hand at solving an outbreak.
  • Post your scores on Facebook or Twitter and challenge your friends to do better!

Reposted from

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Transportation Data Palooza

Transportation DataPalooza Showcase

A Showcase of Innovative Technology Solutions

The United State Department of Transportation (U.S.DOT) is pleased to announce the Transportation Data Palooza. This event will be held on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at USDOT Headquarters in the West Atrium.

The purpose of this event is to showcase innovative technology solutions that:

  • Enhance performance
  • Reduce congestion,
  • Improve safety,
  • Incorporate supplementary/alternative data sources,
  • Make use of data mining/analysis tools such as big data analytics or text analytics,
  • Pioneers the use of mobility management strategies for moving people and/or goods,
  • Visualizes data to enhance understanding of critical transportation information,
  • Enhances public access to data,
  • Incorporates investment optimization tools (trade-off analysis), and
  • Facilitates communication across the transportation industry at the local, state or regional level.

This event is part of U.S.DOT’s efforts to be a central resource for transportation performance management tools, training, and noteworthy practices for implementing MAP-21 performance requirements. The event will consist of an exhibition of interactive transportation data solutions, workshops and panel discussions.

Reposted from the Federal Highway Administration website

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Taking Open Government to the Next Level

“I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives?” President Obama posed this question as a challenge to federal agencies, and we’ve taken that challenge seriously at the Labor Department.

On a personal level, I’m hardly a “techie” − but I appreciate how technology has made my life better in so many ways. That’s why I want to share some of the behind-the-scenes work of my agency, the department’s Office of Public Affairs, in the area of technical innovation.

mobile applicationFirst, it’s important to understand application programming interfaces, known as APIs. (Here’s a great explanation.) The easiest way to think about APIs is that they allow developers in the public and private sectors to build apps, widgets and websites based on government data. Anyone with development skills and a little creativity can use an API to tap into an agency’s data and repackage it as a useful smartphone app or other tool.

Since we published a department-wide API two years ago, developers across the country have used it to create apps that educate users about workplace safety and health, employers’ compliance with wage and hour laws, and improving employment opportunities for disabled workers, just to name a few!

Releasing data through an API was a big step forward, but it was not exactly groundbreaking.  However, since then, my team has been working hard to develop software development kits that are truly innovative because they make using our API even easier.

These kits (also known as SDKs) contain application code for six different platforms − iOS, Android, Blackberry, .Net, PHP and Ruby − that anyone creating a mobile or Web-based app using our data could incorporate. By using the kits, experienced developers will save time and novice developers will be able to work with DOL data in just a few minutes.

And that’s not all − our innovation went a step further. Other federal agencies have their own APIs, and for a variety of technical and business reasons, many have very different requirements for using their APIs. Mike Pulsifer, a federal employee in my office, together with contractors Chuck Brouse, Patrick Johnson and Wendell Hatcher, just finished updating our kits to work with APIs across the federal government. Now developers can easily combine data from the Labor Department with data from 26 other agencies and multi-agency programs. That’s a lot of data!

All of these kits can be downloaded from our developer site. Additionally, in keeping with the federal digital government strategy, each has been published as an open source project ongithub, a popular code-sharing site. For a list of federal APIs that are supported by our kits, check the github repository’s wiki page. This list will be updated as the kits are tested with additional federal APIs.

Our work is helping the government be more efficient and keep up with constantly changing technology. But most importantly, investing in this kind of technology to create a more open government is a priority for us because it empowers you. As the president has said, “we must never forget who our customers are − the American people.”

Reblogged from the Department of Labor’s (Work in Progress) blog.

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Coders! Developers! Data Scientists! Meet the Code-a-Palooza!

US Dept of Health & Human Services logo with birdWhen we started planning the Health Datapalooza this year I asked the planning committee, “How could we make the Health Datapalooza bigger and better? Was there a way for us to do something at the Health Datapalooza this year that would directly contribute to improving health care at the point of clinical care? Was there a way we could help primary care providers make decisions about at risk patients in their practice?

The answer was simple – yes, with a live code-a-thon during the Health Datapalooza that will give ten teams the opportunity to code using the holy grail of health data – Medicare claims data!

I am excited to announce the launch of the Health Datapalooza Code-a-Palooza – a code-a-thon where teams will compete to build an app, tool or product that could be used by primary care providers and/or their office staff to improve the quality of care they deliver towards the total health of their patients.  The teams will be competing for $25,000 in sponsored prizes and using Medicare Parts A and B claims data for a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries. The data includes inpatient, outpatient, home health, hospice, skilled nursing facility, carrier, and durable medical equipment (DME) claims.

Just as you would expect, the Code-a-Palooza isn’t your typical code-a-thon for typical coders.  Teams should have a good understanding of Medicare claims data and what it’s like working in a clinical care setting.  When I think of what a successful team looks like, I think of four critical elements:

  • First, at least one person on your team has clinical acumen and understands the workings of a primary care practice, including provider workflows and the patient experience.
  • Secondly, you should have someone on your team who has killer data analytics skills.
  • Third (and most obvious), you should bring the designer and developer skillsets to the table.
  • Lastly, your team should bring some of your own data. The idea behind this is that teams will be able to use the 5% Medicare data to define a contextual denominator of costs and services and overlay that on your own data to get patient data resembling a real practice.  – The possibilities here are really exciting!

If you think you and your team have what it takes to be part of the first ever Code-a-Palooza, apply here and get your application in by May 4th.  If you feel like you have a lot to offer but don’t have a team, go ahead and submit your information to connect with other free-agents to form your team virtually.

Apply to participate in the Code-a-Palooza and be part of the movement that Health Datapalooza IV embodies. Come unleash the power of data and use your creativity and expertise to improve health care.

More details on the Code-a-Palooza can be found on

Reblogged from HealthData.Gov

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Open Data for Agriculture Meeting Focuses on Global Food Security

USDA iconLater this month, Secretary Vilsack will lead the U.S. Delegation to the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture held in Washington, DC. The conference will bring together innovators from all over the world to discuss the importance of open agricultural data to increased food security across the globe, as well as in opening doors for public/private partnerships and economic growth.   Below, Marshall Matz, former Counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee and founder of Friends of the World Food Program details some of the goals of this year’s conference and his vision for ag data’s role in a more food secure world.

By Marshall Matz, former Counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee and founder of Friends of the World Food Program—USA

Later this month, on April 29 and 30th, the G-8 will host an important meeting on Open Data for Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture is organizing the meeting on behalf of the United States for members of the G-8 and interested parties.  I bet that doesn’t sound very exciting.  Wrong!  This meeting can have a major impact on global food security.

The meeting grows directly out of the G-8 Summit hosted by President Obama last year at Camp David and the commitment they made to a new Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  As a part of the Camp David Declaration, the G-8 agreed to “take to scale new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities” in Africa.

A fact sheet was issued by White House at the time of the Declaration.  In an effort to scale up new technologies, the G-8 agreed to:

  • “Launch a Technology Platform with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa and other partners in consultation with the Tropical Agriculture Platform and the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) initiative that will assess the availability of improved technologies for food commodities critical to achieve sustainable yield, resilience, and nutrition impacts, identify current constraints to adoption, and create a roadmap to accelerate adoption of technologies.
  • “Launch the Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership, housed at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to strengthen the seed sector and promote the commercialization, distribution and adoption of key technologies improved seed varieties, and other technologies prioritized by the Technology Platform to meet established goals in partner countries.
  • “Share relevant agricultural data available from G-8 countries with African partners and convene an international conference on Open Data for Agriculture, to develop options for the establishment of a global platform to make reliable agricultural and related information available to African farmers, researchers and policymakers, taking into account existing agricultural data systems.”

The goal of the Open Data for Agriculture meeting, according to USDA “is to get a commitment and action from nations and relevant stakeholders to promote policies and invest in projects that open access to publicly funded global agriculturally relevant data streams, making such data readily accessible to users in Africa and world-wide, and ultimately supporting a sustainable increase in food security in developed and developing countries.”

Secretary Tom Vilsack will lead the US Delegation.  Under Secretary Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist, said “The G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture will bring together many forward-thinking entrepreneurs and innovators, along with policy makers and thought leaders.  There, we will have the opportunity to discuss how open agricultural data increases food security, improves access to research for developing countries and provides new opportunities for private/public partnerships.”

All innovators and private sector partners are invited to participate in the Open Data for Agriculture meeting and to help define the scope of the discussion.  Hopefully, the meeting will facilitate the transfer of scientific research and information in a broad range of areas from best agricultural practices, to research, biotechnology, irrigation, extension services and applied technology.

See you on April 29th.  It couldn’t be more exciting.

(Excerpt courtesy of Agri-Pulse Communications.  Used with permission)  To read the full article click here.  To learn more about the Open Data meeting click here.)

Reblogged from the USDA blog.

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Coming Together: Open & Analytics

Where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet at Cairo, Il.

photo NASA

With the rollout of the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) in support of the Digital Government Strategy, federal agencies across government are driving the adoption of modern website analytics for the full range of .gov and .mil websites.

To better integrate the DAP analytics code, the Department of Homeland Security built a Drupal module that could be reused across their agency websites.  Because they are using open source code, they then went on to release their code publicly.

This important step now allows any other government agency using Drupal to benefit from Homeland Security’s good work. By adopting this open and collaborative model, they are practicing what the Digital Strategy calls for from all agencies–being open by default.

This is a great example of the different pieces of the digital strategy coming together to build a 21st century government. Let us know how your agency is bringing the strategy together in the comments.

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12 Big Ideas & Predictions for 2013

We saw some big changes across the federal government with the introduction of the Digital Government Strategy in 2012. And it was a big year for innovation at the Department of Health & Human Services, where I’m part of a great team that’s working to transform us into the digital age. Looking forward, 2013 promises to be even bigger!

My colleagues at the Digital Communications Division at HHS and the Federal Web Managers Council have teamed up to bring you 12 big ideas & predictions for 2013:

  1. Help Wanted: Community Manager, Social Media Manager, Social Media Strategist, Social Media Coordinator will become official titles for positions within the federal government. Why does this matter? The right social media team can react quickly and effectively in time of crisis and take advantage of a Super Bowl-sized opportunity on the fly.
  2. 2013 will be the year that ‘m-dot’ died. More web managers will move to responsive design for their websites or mobile apps for targeted content.
  3. Not just responsive design. Responsive content too! Citizen engagement and better customer service will lead to a self-sustaining feedback loop that fuels constant iteration and constant site improvement.
  4. At your service! The success of the Project MyUSA (formerly MyGov) will mean we are finally giving citizens the level of customization and personalization they’ve been getting for years from private sector services.
  5. May I have your attention please? The use of rotating homepage billboards will continue regardless of their value or interest to the public.
  6. AP… what? Structured content and “content as data” will be game changers. This year, everybody will finally understand what an API is and what it does.
  7. #%@! Analytics & sentiment analysis will have a big impact on social media strategy in 2013 and beyond.
  8. [INFOGRAPHIC] Infographics like this will grow in importance as a light, sharable, and printable alternative to video.
  9. Here’s to your health! Health data will hit the mainstream as key parts of the Affordable Care Act kick in later this year. And will exceed 500 open datasets.
  10. Open Government: Open source platforms will continue to dominate as content management systems offer opportunities for collaboration across the federal government.
  11. Git with the program! If you haven’t heard of GitHubTwitter Bootstrap, and LESS CSS, you will by the end of 2013. They may change the way we do web.
  12. Not just for zombies. Gamification, incentivization, and competition on social media platforms will help our content to go viral. Engagement – it’s not just for zombies anymore.

Let us know what you think and share your own ideas and predictions in the comments.  Stay tuned for 12 more predictions coming soon.

Reblogged from the Digital Gov blog.

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Job Search Tools are Going Mobile

Searching for jobs on a mobile phone
The Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration has a number of great online tools to help Americans find new employment or learn new skills from training providers in their community. In the past year alone, more than 40 million people have accessed these tools from their desktops. However, as technology changes, more and more people are using mobile/phone-based browsers to conduct the majority of their Web browsing. The department’s online resources are changing to keep up with the rapid growth and increased use of these devices and systems.

This week, we’ve made some of our most popular online tools available as mobile-optimized websites. These mobile sites give smartphone or tablet users quick access to key job search and training resources. Users can:

  • Locate and contact the American Job Center closest to them.
  • Conduct a Job Search by searching local job listings throughout the entire United States. Job listings are updated daily and can be searched by job type or keyword as well as by city, state or ZIP code.
  • Perform a Veterans Job Search to match military job experience to civilian careers, and then view local job listings for those careers. Users can search by their military job title or their occupational classification (MOC/MOS) code and can view job listings by city, state or ZIP code.
  • Browse the Salary Finder, which provides average hourly wages or annual salaries by occupation and location. The data come from the Occupational Employment Statistics program of the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Search the Training Finder for education and training programs in a specific area. Users can search by occupation, program or school, and then find contact information for the relevant program.

These changes are part of the department’s ongoing efforts to make workforce resources more open and accessible to the communities who need them most, and to ensure that job seekers have a range of tools at their fingertips.

Reblogged from Work in Progress, The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Analytics, APIs and Open Content Resources

Tools, hammer, wire cutters, wrench, screwdriverAgencies have been working away at building better digital services and here, at the Digital Services Innovation Center, we’ve been building resources to help.

We have been focusing on three areas,

1. The Digital Analytics Program. We announced this program in early October to help agencies better measure performance and customer satisfaction to improve service delivery. It includes digital metrics guidance and best practices, training and a federal-wide Web analytics tool and support. We are rolling out the code for the tool to all agencies now. See more on the Digital Analytics Program and supercharge your analytics.

2. Open Content Management.  To support infrastructure and content needs across the federal government, we developed a CMS toolkit with resources to help agencies choose, design and migrate to a content management system (CMS). A CMS not only helps agencies efficiently manage their online content, but also can help them move to an open content model, making it easier for people to find, share, use, and re-use government information.  And, for agencies who need a government policy-compliant platform and hosting solution, we’ve alpha launched, an enterprise-ready CMS service in the cloud. We’re happy to help you get started.

3. API Resources. APIs have been called the “secret sauce” for digital services. They help open information (content and data) so it can be reused inside and outside of government. We’re helping agencies build out APIs by building out knowledge. Agencies can use the API Toolkit to learn API basics and see examples of APIs in government. We’ve also sponsored a six-part (and growing) API webinar series.

But much more important than the parts, is how this is working together to improve the service that government provides. Agencies are working on building out APIs and developer resources, like Department of Energy and the Department of Health and Human Services. They are making services available via mobile like solutions being offered by USDA and the Government Printing Office. And some are doing both at the same time, like the Census Bureau at the Department of Commerce.

Let us know what else you need, and what you have(!) to help build the future of anytime, anywhere and any device government.

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Redesigned draws a crowd… and goes responsive

In October, we launched a redesigned and re-energized to make it easier for you to find the information you need. The results from the past 60 days show we’ve made very good progress. And the best part? We’re just getting started.

For example, because they know that mobile device use is the future, last week our web team launched a truly responsive design. So now, when you visit our site using a mobile device, you won’t just benefit from a page that scales to your smaller screen–instead, you’ll see a page that rearranges itself to fit your device. We’re all pretty excited about this new development, and I think it’s a wonderful holiday gift to everyone who uses their smartphone or tablet to visit

Screen shot from DOT site

Our goals for are simple:

  • To help you find what you need as easily as possible;
  • To make the most popular resources more accessible; and
  • To arrange our resources in line with how you think about transportation.

Just two months after our launch, our site statistics show that the decisions we made–using public input–are driving real results.

Website on tabletVisits to have increased by 30 percent. That means our site is easier to find. And because the number of page views has grown even faster, that means that when people visit the site, they’re looking at more of what we offer and staying with us longer.What are they finding? Well, our new topic pages andaudience pages are among the most visited on the site. With these topic landing pages, we tried to organize our resources around the kind of transportation you might be interested in, instead of organizing it around DOT offices and agency acronyms.

These numbers show we’re heading down the right path, but there’s plenty of work left to be done. Our web team is testing the site regularly and reviewing the results to be sure you can find what you need, when you need it, and on whatever device you want to use.

One part of that is our customer survey. If that pops up while you’re browsing our site, please take the time to let us know how we’re doing and how we can make the site even more useful.

There’s also a feedback button on every single page so you can let us know what’s working and what isn’t.

After all, it might be our site, but you’re in the driver’s seat.

Reblogged from

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Department of Energy Implements APIs in the Cloud

Department of Energy SealAs part of the Digital Strategy,  the Department of Energy is making more high-value data sets available through Application Program Interfaces (APIs) – helping programmers develop new opportunities, services and products for citizens. Additionally, these data sets and APIs are now housed on cloud-based servers, helping us to provide easy, scalable access to the public.

Moving our data sets to the cloud builds on the important steps the Energy Department has taken to advance cost-effective, secure cloud-hosted infrastructure solutions. For example, we have also moved our Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to the cloud to streamline operations. We are also adding data utility rateshydrogenenergy apps and datasets to Open EI, an open-data source for a wide range of energy information.  A few of our newest data sets include:

  • The underlying data behind the Alternative Fueling Station Locator, which provides location-based alternative fuel station data for biodiesel, natural gas, propane, electric, hydrogen and ethanol.
  • The DOE Green Energy API, offering data from research and development conducted by the Energy Department’s National Laboratories as well as university projects supported by the Department.  The website provides two data sets on renewable energy and energy efficiency technical reports and patents.
  • The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electricity API provides over 500,000 data points on generation, fuel quality, fuel consumption, and retail sales by generation plant and by state.

Learn more about the Energy Department’s work on the Digital Strategy.

Reblogged from

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Introducing !

This entry was reposted from the Digital Strategy Blog.

Have you heard about Probably not, but if you work on or use CMS’ websites, it is a tool you use every day.

The Web & New Media Group (WNMG) started building about 10 months ago and completed the full launch of the site as part of the redesign on August 21, 2012. represents a shared code library for all of CMS’ public websites. As websites (ours and everyone else’s!) have grown in complexity over the past decade, they have come to be built on many common code and image libraries. These include the following file types:

  • Website headers & footers
  • Javascript libraries
  • CSS (stylesheet) files
  • Shared images
  • HTML snippets

Many of these files are developed by CMS and/or contractors, but there are also many common code libraries used across almost all commercial and Federal websites these days. Common libraries used by CMS include:

  • jQuery
  • Twitter Bootstrap
  • YUI (Yahoo! User Interface Library)

By placing all of these common code files onto, we can use the same code across all of CMS’ websites. supports both a global directory of assets used across all websites as well as folders for site-specific code libraries (e.g.,,, etc.).

Some of the benefits of this approach include:

  • The ability to cache files across all of CMS’ websites, resulting in better website performance
  • The ability to release new versions of code libraries across all websites at once
  • A common set of code built & tested to Section 508 compliance and cross-browser performance

I’ve mentioned how WNMG is using to support development of the public websites, but any CMS web-based project can be built against the framework. Using for your web project gains you all of the benefits above and also saves you development time by leveraging the work that has already been done. Documentation & Downloads are available online. We are continuing to iterate and grow the amount of documentation online, so please check back frequently.

If you are interested in using for a web development project you are working on, please let us know in the comments. We are happy to address any questions you have or to provide additional information. Your feedback will help make this project better!

Please post all comments/feedback on the original HHS post.

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What Kind of Website Do You Have?

One red apple among a number of oranges.Numbers are neither good nor bad. It’s context that gives them meaning. For examples, context can be derived over time, like changes or trends, or it can be provided by comparison to a peer, like a benchmark. But a meaningful comparison needs to be apples to apples.

The Digital Strategy requires agencies to collect metrics.  We launched the Digital Analytics Program last week to help agencies with metrics guidance, training, a tool and support for that tool. The guidance included a metrics framework (context!), and today we are offering another lens to understand federal websites.

GSA commissioned web analytics industry leader comScore to independently analyze 75 federal agency websites on a range of quantitative and qualitative factors.  As part of the report, comScore introduces three federal website “use categories” to segment government sites according to functionality and purpose.

There are other models that agencies can apply.  The American Consumer Satisfaction Index, for example, publishes studies about customer satisfaction. They classify government websites as news and information websites, portals and department main websites, e-commerce and transactional sites and career/recruitment websites.

Why is this important?

The purpose of a site provides context to measure success. For example, with interactive sites, visits per visitor has an inverse relationship with efficiency. The fewer visits required to accomplish a task, the better. In directional sites, visits per visitor is directly related to effectiveness. If the site takes a visitor where she needs to go every time, she will keep coming back to use it.

GSA commissioned this report to support the President’s Executive Order on “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service,” that  was one of the drivers for the White House’s Digital Government Strategy.

Learn more about GSA’s Digital Analytics Program and view the report.

[Updated Oct 19 with other types of classifications.]

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Here’s to Your Health

Editor’s Note: We are featuring the work agencies are doing keeping with the letter and spirit of the Digital Strategy. This is on the value of APIs.

HHS has collected more than 284 datasets at and the inventory is currently growing by almost 100 per year. Thirty-three of these databases are already API enabled. One of the largest is the HealthCare Finder API, which opens multiple data collections covering public and private health insurance plans.

Screenshot of US News Health Plan Finder

U.S. News & World Report uses the HHS HealthCare Finder API to create a tool to help consumers find the Best Health Insurance Plans for their specific needs. Their web-based Best Health Insurance Plans rates plans based on coverage and costs (both monthly and out-of-pocket), and makes it easy for users to find plans top-rated plans available to them. “We at U.S. News are thrilled to have access to the HealthCare Finder API and the important health insurance data it makes publicly available,” said Ben Harder, General Manager of Health Rankings at U.S. News. “Using the API, U.S. News has rated thousands of health plans across America, making it easier for individuals and families to compare their options and make better insurance-purchasing decisions.”

Other APIs provide access to information on the quality of provider care, the quality of hospital and nursing home care, a directory of federally qualified health centers, National Library of Medicine and Medline Plus resources, cancer incidence, FDA recalls, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s TOXMAP ( includes datasets from across the U.S. Government).

Reblogged from the HHS Open Data Blog.

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Digital Analytics Program Helps Agencies Measure Web Performance

Image of a bar graphSupport for agencies’ implementation of upcoming Digital Government Strategy milestones continues with the rollout of the Digital Analytics Program to help agencies measure performance and customer satisfaction to improve service delivery. This new program helps agencies by providing digital metrics guidance and practices, training and tools and implementation support.

The Digital Government Strategy Milestone 8.2 calls for agencies to implement performance and customer satisfaction measurement tools on all .gov websites. The Digital Services Innovation Center, housed at GSA, is rolling out a comprehensive Digital Analytics Program to help.

Step One was the release of guidance and best practices on Digital Metrics in August. This includes comprehensive info and measures for digital services, as well as outlining the common set of agency measures for web sites.

Step Two begins when the Innovation Center releases a common tool October 15 as a shared service to help federal executive branch agencies comply with the strategy by collecting and reporting on the 10 required performance metrics. The solution uses a page tagging technique to collect metrics, which has become an industry standard. There is no cost to agencies to use the tool.

By using a common web analytics tool across agencies, we’ll be able to deliver an unprecedented, government-wide view of how well agencies serve their customers online. Being able to share this data will also create new possibilities for agencies to collaborate in improving service and learn from each other.

The new solution isn’t intended to replace any of the products agencies are already using. But it can supplement current efforts and can serve as a stand-alone solution for agencies without a metrics tool.

What’s next?

Agency leads for Digital Strategy will be identifying a point-of-contact (POC) for Digital Analytics for their agency. The POC will be the primary person that GSA works with on implementing the common tool and page tags. This will keep the implementation as streamlined as possible.

Want to learn more?

  • Listen to the on-demand Digital Metrics webinar on the requirements and guidance and a case study on agency-wide metrics implementation at USDA.
  • Sign up for email updates on Digital Analytics Program page on
  • Send your questions to, and we’ll post the answers on HowTo.
  • Check out future training from DigitalGov University related to metrics and other topics.

Reblogged from Digital Gov Blog

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Digital Government Strategy Milestones Report

Screenshot of Digital Strategy milestones webpage.Yesterday marked three months since the release of the Digital Government Strategy and agencies have been making great strides in meeting the milestones toward building a 21st Century Government. In his blog, Building-blocks of a 21st Century Digital Government, Steve Van Roekel said

Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people. We must unlock rich government data, information and services so that everyone from citizen developers and private sector entrepreneurs, to our very own Federal agencies can help provide the American people with the access to these services “anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

This blog was released in conjunction with the milestones deliverables page where you can find:

What’s your agency doing to meet the milestones? Let us know about the great work you are doing, and remember to check out the Digital Services Innovation Center webpage and digital strategy milestone page for guidance, resources, and training.

Reposted from Digital Gov Blog.


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Have Your Say! NARA needs your input on Digital Strategy!

This entry was reblogged from the NARAtions blog.

On May 23, 2012, the White House released the Digital Government Strategy, which outlines how all federal agencies will work to make information and services easily accessible on the internet, anytime, anywhere, and on any device. President Barack Obama said,

“Ultimately, this Strategy will ensure that agencies use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible. As a government, and as a trusted provider of services, we must never forget who our customers are – the American people.”

At the National Archives, we are working to make our data and information available to you.

Weigh in and let us know what you’d like us to focus on.
We’ve developed two lists. The first list is for proposed services to optimize for mobile use, so you can better access these services via a smartphone, tablet, or another mobile device. The second list is for systems to enable via Web Services like APIs, so that the data will be more accessible, especially for developers to reuse. Candidates were selected based on the possibility of implementation by May 2013. Please also let us know what additional candidates you would like to see optimized for mobile or enabled via APIs in the future.

In the comments below, please let us know what you would like to prioritized and specific recommendations for what will be most useful to you. If you prefer, you can email your recommendations to

To learn more about the agency’s implementation of the Digital Government Strategy, please visit

Proposed Mobile Candidates:

  • Mobile optimize
  • Develop a mobile application based on the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents.
  • Mobile optimize
  • Mobile optimize the Online Public Access resource, the online public portal for National Archives records.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Wikipedia, which is mobile optimized and available through mobile apps.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Flickr, which is mobile optimized and available through mobile apps.
  • Make improvements to Today’s Document mobile application.
  • Make improvements to the mobile application for DocsTeach, an online educational resource featuring National Archives records.
Proposed API Candidates:
  • Integration of API into and its API. This integration would provide greater access to public comments and supporting documents in, and improve process for submitting public comments from to
  • Expand the API to include the “Public Inspection Desk.”
  • Develop an API for FDsys through the Office of Federal Register – Government Printing Office Partnership.
  • Develop an API for the Online Public Access resource, the online public portal for National Archives records.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Wikipedia,  which is accessible through the MediaWiki API.
  • Make additional National Archives records available through Flickr, which is accessible through the Flickr API.

Please leave your comments for NARA on the original NARAtions blog post.

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Seeking Your Input for USDA’s Digital Strategy

This entry was reposted from the USDA Blog.

On May 23, 2012, the White House released the Federal Digital Strategy aimed at building a 21stcentury government provides open data and digital services to the American people and its employees.

As part of our Digital Strategy, USDA has identified several first-move candidates that can be improved to meet the call for web APIs and mobile optimized services by May 23, 2013.

We’d like your input in deciding which two candidates in each category we will commit to completing by OMB’s May 23, 2013 deadline. We’d love to hear your feedback – which of these candidates would be most useful to you? What should we consider when creating web APIs and optimizing for mobile? Did we miss anything?

We have identified the following first-move candidates to make available as web Application Programming Interfaces (APIs):

Name: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates
: Provides USDA’s comprehensive forecasts of supply and demand for major U.S. and global crops and U.S. livestock. The report gathers information from a number of statistical reports published by USDA and other government agencies, and provides a framework for additional USDA reports.
Main Customers:
Government, Business, Media, Education Institutions, Consumers

Name: National Farmers Market Directory
Agricultural Marketing Service-produced directory containing information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and accepted forms of payment. Supports local and regional food systems, as well as development of local economies.
Main Customers:
Consumers, Business, Community leaders

Name: List of Disaster Counties
Farm Service Agency list of Counties with a specific disaster designation.
Main Customers:
Producers, Farmers, Government, Media

Name: Office Information Profile System
USDA Service Centers are designed to be a single location where customers can access the services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development agencies. This tool provides the address of a USDA Service Center and other Agency offices serving your area along with information on how to contact them.
Main Customers:
Government, Business, Public

Name: SNAP Retailer Locator information
Find a retailer welcomes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transaction (EBT) customers. Currently available as an interactive map with geocoded information available by download as a .CSV file. Locations updated monthly
Main Customers:

The following list includes high-value USDA service candidates to potentially be optimized for mobile use:

Name: Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory
The Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory is a listing of establishments that produce meat, poultry, and/or egg products regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) pursuant to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act. Directory is updated monthly.
Main Customers:
Business, Industry, Government, Consumers

Name: USDA Newsroom
The USDA Newsroom holds official news releases, statements, transcripts and speeches released by the Department.
Main Customers:
Government, Public, Media

Name: USDA Blog
The Blog features content from all USDA agencies and features the latest news, events and features. The Blog also provides the public an opportunity to ask questions or share their thoughts about the latest issues.
Main Customers:
Government, Public, Media

Name: AmberWaves eZine
As the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) flagship publication, Amber Waves provides a window into ERS research through highly readable articles geared to educated but non-specialized audiences. Amber Waves covers important issues on U.S. markets & trade, diet & health, resources & environment, rural issues in easy to digest articles, with comprehensive links to ERS website for more details.
Main Customers:
Government, Media, Researchers, Education Institutions

Name: Office Information Profile System

Description: USDA Service Centers are designed to be a single location where customers can access the services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development agencies. This tool provides the address of a USDA Service Center and other Agency offices serving your area along with information on how to contact them.
Main Customers:
Government, Business, Public

Please leave comments on regarding your choices on the USDA blog post.

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Opening Up Our Data

This entry is reposted from the HHS Digitalk Blog

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel released the federal government’s new digital strategy which aims to shift the way government information is accessed and consumed. Instead of focusing on producing a final product, which has been common practice for years, the government will now be making content more accurate, available and secure. One major tool in the information technology tool box being used to achieve this goal is the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

An API is a set of tools for building software applications. But more importantly, an API makes information more accessible. This is important for two reasons.

First, the use of APIs makes it easier to replicate government information across more places than ever before. APIs enable automatic updates of information when content is syndicated on other websites, while reducing actual person hours currently spent manually updating content.

Second, APIs make information and data easily available to developers, who can create Web and mobile applications that make information increasingly more useful to the public. We have already seen the benefits of liberating vast amounts of data through the Department of Health and Human Service’s Open Government Health Data Initiative, hundreds of applications like My Cancer GenomeHealthGrades,Archimedes’ IndiGO, and the Healthy Communities Network which have been developed for individuals, communities and service providers. HHS has been liberating vast amounts of its data, many of which have APIs and are on

As the government changes the way it does business—making content and Web APIs the new default—government information and data will be more open, accessible and useful for the public. This strategy will open doors for communication and give everyone the opportunity to use government information in a more meaningful way.

Join the conversation: #digitalk Please leave your comments on the original HHS Blog post.


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Building-Blocks of a 21st Century Digital Government

Cover from report: Digital Government, Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People, May 23, 2012Today marks three months since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5) – as part of thePresident’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.

Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people. We must unlock rich government data, information and services so that everyone from citizen developers and private sector entrepreneurs, to our very own Federal agencies can help provide the American people with the access to these services “anywhere, anytime, on any device.”

Today agencies are making great strides towards putting a solid foundation for a 21st Century Digital Government in place.

For example, the Census Bureau recently released its first mobile app, called “America’s Economy,” and just today released an iOS version. The app mashes up Census data with economic statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides the latest economic indicators that drive business hiring, sales, and production decisions throughout the nation in real time. Economists, planners, business owners, and the public can use the app to get a quick and easy snapshot of the health of the U.S. economy, look at trends, and receive notifications when indicators change. But as powerful as the app is, just as powerful is the way Census is releasing the underlying data through its first publicly available application programming interface (API).

The Census API, which pulls from the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census, has yielded an unprecedented level of interest from citizen developers. Over 800 external developers have already accessed the API since its release, and users have generated over 24 million data requests. And as an indication of how valuable and accessible this data is, it took only 24 hours for the first third-party app to be developed and we are excited to see the many more applications that will be developed using this data.

This is just one example of the power of unlocking rich government data sets and services to the public and is exactly what the Digital Government Strategy is trying to accomplish. But it is just the beginning.

Today, every major Federal agency is posting candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months. While many focus on providing better services directly to the public, others focus on increasing internal government efficiencies to save taxpayer dollars. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is planning to develop a mobile app for its revenue agents that will allow them to accept a paper check from a taxpayer, take a picture, and automatically deposit it for posting to the taxpayer’s account.

You can link to each of the agency lists via, and I encourage you to weigh in on which candidates you think are the highest value. There, you can also find links to other recent products of the Strategy aimed at providing agencies with the tools they need to be successful and scaling existing best practices across government:

  • A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) toolkit for agencies considering implementation of a BYOD program;
  • A report on how the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) standards and guidelines are evolving to meet the challenge of mobile security;
  • Recommendations on how agencies can stand up effective digital services governance structures; and
  • Performance measurements tools that will help drive data-driven decision making around the Federal web space.

It’s been a busy three months, and I look forward to adding more building-blocks in the months ahead as we continue to deliver on the President’s vision of a more modern, efficient, and accessible government for the 21st Century.

Reposted from The White House Blog.

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Agile “Sprinting” to Digital Governance Recommendations

To help agencies produce better decision-making across the organization about how to best spend resources on digital services and manage their data, the Digital Government Strategy tasked the Digital Services Advisory Group with “recommending guidelines on agency-wide governance structure for developing and delivering digital services and managing data.”

Governance Sprint #1

A clear governance structure helps with digital service efficiency and quality ofservice. You can find the digital governance recommendations here and agencies will use these to”establish an agency-wide governance structure for developing and delivering digital services” by November 23.

As part of its mission to promote cross-agency sharing of best practices in the delivery of digital services, the Digital Services Advisory Group worked with the Federal CIO Council and Federal Web Managers Council to develop recommendations on how agencies can
stand up effective digital services governance structures consistent with Milestone Action #4.2. Recognizing that governance is a means to an end, the recommendations highlight opportunity areas for agencies to deliver better services at a lower cost.

To support the Digital Services Advisory Group’s efforts, the Digital Services Innovation Center hosted a digital governance co-lo project. This project is an ongoing experiment where we have applied agile software development processes to policy-making.

We used intensive, facilitated “agile sprints” to help agencies develop digital governance structures. The goals for these “sprints” as we began to call them were to:

  • Allow the participating agencies to get a jump start on their governance models
  • Abstract what was learned from these agencies’ governance model creation processes to inform the Digital Services Advisory Group’s governance recommendations
  • Share this “agile sprint” model with other agencies to accelerate their digital governance model creation in order to meet the November 23rd milestone.

The government innovators who partook in this experiment were the U.S Departments of Education, Agriculture, Veteran’s Affairs and the General Services Administration. In the first sprint, which lasted a week, these agencies agreed to creating a digital governance model “minimal viable policy” or MVPs to workshop with their agencies before the second sprint.

During this sprint, the innovating agencies found themselves engaging in a rapid cycle of brainstorming,  presenting, getting and giving feedback on their outline digital governance model MVPs. Facilitators started to notice that agencies would “borrow” MVP elements they liked from other agencies in successive presentations. A RACI chart for stakeholder mapping was perhaps the most “borrowed” element.

These agencies will continue to work on the digital governance sprint experiment over the next month to have their governance structures ready for the November 23rd deadline. We are interested in exploring how agencies might use this model for other areas of policy development.

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Digital Strategy Milestones–What you need to know

The Digital Government Strategy empowers federal agencies to harness technology to improve service to the American people. The Digital Government Strategy empowers federal agencies to harness technology to improve service to the American people.

The Digital Government Strategy has “hit the ground running” and we want to make sure you have the up-to-date information on the August milestones. will host the tools and guidance for many of the deliverables from the Digital Strategy, and will coordinate training, host discussions, and provide agency case studies.

Right now you can:

We are building out resources to help support agencies:

  • Establish an agency–wide governance structure for developing and delivering digital services. (milestone 4.2)
  • Implement performance and customer satisfaction measuring tools on all .gov websites. (milestone 8.2)

On August 23rd OMB will issue governance guidance and the performance and customer satisfaction metrics guidance will be posted on
Agency MilestonesAgencies are hard at work engaging with their primary audiences to determine (by Aug. 23rd):

  • Two existing major customer-facing services that contain high-value data or content as first-move candidates to make compliant with new open data, content, and web API policy (milestone 2.1) , and
  • Two existing priority customer-facing services to optimize for mobile use. (milestone 7.1)

These services can be the same two for each milestone, or different, it’s up to you.
The Dept. of Commerce wrote a blog post asking for feedback on their priority services, and so did the EPA and Dept. of Education. Other agencies have hosted town halls / focus groups or used online engagement platforms.
Agencies are required to post a page at by today (Aug 16). Take a look at your agency’s page, where you’ll find agency information on the Digital Strategy milestones. The priority services your agency will select will be included here.

What else is your agency doing to meet the milestones? How do you think the Digital Strategy will change the way we work? What else can we do to help you and your agency meet the milestones of the Digital Government Strategy?

Reblogged from Digital Gov Blog.

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Your Feedback Wanted: More Open ED Data

I am part of a team that is looking at ways to enhance the Department’s digital services and respond to the White House’s Digital Government Strategy.  We are spearheading a new initiative to make more of the data ED publishes open and developer-friendly via web application programming interfaces (APIs).  APIs allow web developers to pull data from one or more API-enabled sources into another website, application, or mobile app. It makes sharing information more fluid and current.  Check out the currently available 16 ED datasets with APIs on

Department of Education logoThe Department of Education and the White House are reaching out to developers interested in working with education open data. The Data Jam held in June kicked off development of projects and tools to be presented at an Education Datapalooza event to be held at the White House in October 2012. Datapalooza will be an opportunity to highlight tools and services that leverage open educational data sets (, individual electronic student data (MyData), and data about learning content (Learning Registry) to improve student choices around learning.  Datapalooza will be streamed live (and posted online afterwards) for anyone who wants to participate. Email the team at edtech@ed.govfor more details about the event plans, or if you are currently working/interested in working on open educational data integrations.

But Datapalooza is only the first step to engage the public. We want to hear from you – developers and all of our customers. Tell us which ED data sets and online tools have data that should be more open. Great ideas come from everywhere. If you have an idea for an app that would help you and the public access certain types of information, let us know. Your input will help us prioritize the suggestions made here and some of the ideas we already have in mind.

To get the conversation started, here are a few datasets that could be enabled through API:

For more ideas, see our datasets on and our lists of ED-funded websites and online tools.

Comments open on this blog post will be open through August 20. Our team plans to analyze your feedback and set out a plan for making more of our websites and tools more mobile in the coming months.

Thanks for taking the time to tell us what you think!

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Commerce Department Needs Your Input on Digital Strategy

Department of Commerce sealOn May 23, 2012, the White House released the Federal Digital Strategy that outlined the use of “modern tools and technologies to seize the digital opportunity and fundamentally change how the Federal Government serves both its internal and external customers–building a 21st century platform to better serve the American People.” The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requiring agencies to implement at least two such tools or technologies by August 23, 2012.

As part of the Digital Strategy, the Department of Commerce has identified two areas that are ripe for improvement and several platforms within each that could be updated: APIs and mobile-optimization. As such, today we are asking for your input in deciding which two items we will commit to completing by OMB’s August 23 deadline. In the comments section, we welcome your feedback on the possible candidates for improvement, or other opportunities we may have overlooked. Your feedback, combined with other internal and external conversations, will guide Commerce’s digital plan in the coming months and years.

For APIs, Commerce has identified:

Name Description Main Customers
News from the Office of the Secretary Blog posts and news releases General public and Commerce employees
NTIA News News releases from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration General Public
American Community Survey Estimates of the characteristics of the United States’ population and housing over a specific data collection period General Public, Statisticians, Educators Provides information to help U.S. businesses participate in the global marketplace with information on trade events, tariffs and export counseling assistance U.S. Business, particularly exporters Performance metrics OR informational content for Minority Business Development Administration’s annual conference Minority-owned businesses

For mobile optimization, Commerce has identified:

Service Name Service Description Main Customers Public-facing Departmental Website General public and Departmental employees
BIS.DOC.GOV Public-facing Website for Bureau of Industry & Security Exporters, general public, and Bureau employees Information to help U.S. businesses participate in the global marketplace with information on trade events, tariffs and export counseling assistance. U.S. exporters and businesses interested in exporting Information to support job growth and economic expansion through a network of MBDA business centers, Minority-owned business firms and Bureau employees In-depth reports, fact sheets, and briefings on policy issues and current economic events. General public and agency employees

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Developing with Accessibility

Federal Communications Commission LogoSeptember 6-7, 2012 / FCC Commission Meeting Room and Training Rooms | TW-C305, 445 12th Street S.W., Washington, DC

On September 6 and 7, 2012 the FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative (A&I) will be hosting the “Developing with Accessibility,” event at the FCC’s headquarters. The event is designed to spur increased collaboration on accessibility solutions among developers from industry, consumer, and government sectors. The event will encourage the use of accessibility APIs (application programming interfaces), as well as publicly available data sets, in order to build accessible apps for mobile phones and websites. One of the key objectives is to promote the concept and practice of developing applications within accepted accessibility guidelines, thereby maximizing their usability for everyone, including people with disabilities.

The event will offer training on development topics, in-person collaboration on programming projects, and professional networking among developers.  The event will be collaborative in electronic spaces before, during, and after the event. Rather than limit this to accomplishments that can be achieved during a single, in-person event, this Developer event is not intended to be an end in itself, but will instead serve as an organizing opportunity to create mechanisms for ongoing collaboration among developers who are interested in building accessible technology solutions.

It is also a goal of the A&I to make smart use of new media tools to create electronic spaces for such collaboration. We encourage others to also activate online collaboration spaces associated with this effort. To this end, we suggest use of hashtag, #DevAcc as a tag that facilitates searching and coordination of the upcoming events on the web, Facebook, Twitter, & other new media outlets.

Please pre-register for the event by sending your name, affiliation, and contact information to by August 31, 2012. Also send disability accommodation requests to

If there are particular ways that you’d like to participate, or related activities that you’d like to inform us about, also feel free to write to

The meeting site is fully accessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Open captioning and assistive listening devices will be provided on site. Other reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Include a description of the accommodation you will need and tell us how to contact you if we need more information. Make your request as early as possible. Last minute requests will be accepted, but may be impossible to fill. Send an e-mail to: or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

The general session of the event will be webcast with open captioning at

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GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center Launches

GSA has now launched the Digital Services Innovation Center, a key piece of the White House’s new digital government strategy released in late May. The strategy was designed to ensure federal agencies use emerging technologies to serve the American people as effectively as possible through improved web services and mobile applications.

Over the next 10 months, the Center is charged with meeting a number of specific digital strategy milestones to deliver digital services and government information anywhere, anytime and on any device.  The Center will engage agencies across government by serving as a virtual hub to accelerate innovative digital services. Initial efforts are underway establishing shared solutions and training to support infrastructure and content needs across the Federal government, and identifying and providing performance and customer service satisfaction measurement tools to improve service delivery.

The Center will consist of a small core staff housed within GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, but will be pulling in contributors across government to fulfill its mission.  As a result of GSA’s work on the digital government strategy, the American public can expect an improved customer experience from digital government services. Over the coming year, the public will be able to access and use more government information than ever before.

Across GSA, additional offices are also hard at work implementing the digital government strategy.  The Federal Acquisition ServiceOffice of Government-wide Policy, and within the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies are all working on elements to widen shared services, increase efficiencies, and provide tools for a better government.

GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center is leading the agency-wide commitment to deliver more efficient and lower-cost digital services across government.  For more information, or if you have an interest in ways to help us innovate,

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Introducing The API Webinar Series

You need resources, and we are here to help with an excellent new webinar series to jump start your agency’s digital gov efforts.

Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, allow developers to get creative with an agency’s data—from making content mobile ready to innovative mashups. API’s are an important data element agencies need to address when implementing the Digital Gov Strategy. Today, we are introducing an API Webinar series to get you on your way to conquering them!

On Thursday, July 19 we will host API Webinar Series Part I: APIs for Dummies–an Introduction to APIs.


In this first installment of our API webinar series, experts from NASA and the CDC will explain what APIs are, why they are important, and how they are covered in the Digital Government Strategy. This webinar will be moderated by Gray Brooks, Senior API Strategist at GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center.

What You’ll Learn

  • What an API is
  • API examples and practices from the private and public sectors
  • What the Digital Government Strategy says about APIs
  • How your agency can get started

When: Thursday, July 19, 10 a.m.-11a.m. EST

Sign up for this free and timely webinar and get ahead of the curve. Register now and sign up here for updates about future webinars in this series.

Reblogged from Mobile Gov Blog.

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a desktop computer, tablet, and iphone all showing

The internet has changed and continues to change how the American public receives information and interacts with the government. At we are constantly adapting to the changing environment so we can use the most appropriate technology available to reach our diverse audiences. Recently, the federal government ushered us into this new era with the release of the Digital Government Strategy. A key element of the strategy is to allow for federal data and information to be shared anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Federal CIO Steve Van Roekel’s emphasis on making government “more efficient and able to adapt to inevitable changes in technology” typifies the ideals we have worked towards on the project. We were pleased to see that the Digital Government Strategy listed responsive web design as a new standard or solution for addressing the inevitable changes in technology that will occur. Responsive web design is a technique that allows content to adjust to the size of the device that accesses the information. Phones, tablets, desktop computers, TV’s, and video game consoles all have different capabilities related to how content is displayed. Using responsive web design, Federal services can be designed to meet the needs of a broad audience. For an example of responsive web design, look at the new on a smart phone and then on your desktop.

True to the principles of the Digital Government Strategy, as a project has incorporated more services that are optimized for mobile over the past few years. We launched in 2006, began podcasting and using social media in 2007 and 2008, released the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Service Provider Locator in 2009, launched a mobile website in 2010, and optimized additional services for mobile in 2011, including the Locator API.

While has built new services and worked to keep up with the rapidly changing mobile landscape, we have learned that there are no easy or one-size-fits-all solutions that address the multiplying complexity of technological progress. We have learned that there are principles that can be applied to projects to ensure that our content and data can be reused and repurposed, across social media, new platforms, and the ever expanding class of devices and platforms that can now access web-based information.

Responsive web design represents the best way for us to achieve the goal of future friendly web resources built for the HIV/AIDS community. Building responsively allows us to focus on the goal of ensuring any person, anywhere, in any situation and on any device can access basic HIV information, Federal HIV prevention resources and services, and the latest news on the Federal government’s response in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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Hitting the Ground Running With the Digital Strategy

Last month, the Obama Administration launched the Digital Government Strategy (PDFHTML5), a comprehensive roadmap aimed at building a 21st Century Digital Government that delivers better digital services to the American people. We’ve hit the ground running and are already hard at work driving the strategy forward.

Digital Government: Builging a 21st Century Platform to Better Server the American PeopleFirst, we’ve established the Digital Services Innovation Center to operationalize the principle of “build once, use many times” by serving as a virtual hub, supported by agencies across government, to incubate and accelerate innovative digital services. The Innovation Center has been gearing up with a small core team from within the General Services Administration, and will draw on a pool of experts and creative thinkers from across government using temporary staffing arrangements, multi-agency teams, and others with specialized expertise and skills to address rapid turnaround needs. Work is underway on initial tasks, including identifying and providing performance and customer satisfaction measurement tools to improve service delivery and more. This team will also be central in working with the forthcoming “MyGov” Presidential Innovation Fellows project.

Second, on June 13, I convened a set of leaders from across government – including representatives from the Federal CIO Council (CIOC), Federal Web Managers Council (FWMC), and several agencies – for the first meeting of the Digital Services Advisory Group. The Advisory Group will help steer implementation of the Digital Government Strategy, prioritize Innovation Center activities, and recommend government-wide best practices, guidance, and standards. The Advisory Group has already begun to work with the CIOC and FWMC on two early deliverables: guidance and best practices on allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work (known as “bring-your-own-device”), as well as agency-wide governance models for digital services.

We’ve also tapped the deep reserve of citizen-innovators who want to help build a better government using the power of technology. There has been a groundswell of interest in the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, with 700 applicants for Fellows positions, and over 4,000 people in total expressing interest in following (and contributing to) their progress. These fellows will help the government take on critical challenges such as giving individuals access to their personal health records and “liberating” government data to fuel entrepreneurship. The numbers of applications are very encouraging, and US Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Todd Park and I are thrilled to see this type of enthusiasm for the program and the mission it represents.

As we continue our work implementing the strategy, you can track our progress at Stay tuned – we’re just getting started.

Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer – for more information visit

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