Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski

Blog Feed Post

JustSystems Feed: Free the Data: eGov and Open Standards

When President Obama appointed his new federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, last week, Kundra announced ambitious plans to "democratize" federal government data by making it accessible in open formats and in data feeds. His plan calls for the creation of a single point of access to all public federal information. The idea is to enable the data to be accessed by developers whose applications will open up federal data to the sunlight of millions of citizens by encouraging them to scrutinize how the Recovery Act’s dollars will be spent.

As chief technology officer for the District of Columbia, Kundra raised the bar by making government data more readily accessible to its residents, leveraging pre-existing Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook and YouTube.

Federal agencies are now banding together to plan for how they are going to provide this information in an open, standardized manner that enables citizens to efficiently and accurately mine data, make comparisons, and perform analytics across all government sectors.

All this accessible data sounds well and good until you start looking at it from a developer’s point of view — there is currently little or no uniformity across government agencies for reporting granular federal financial data. With billions of dollars being funneled in grants, loans, and loan guarantees, there needs to be a standard ‘open’ format and shared re-usable taxonomy for both applications and reporting.

What Can We Anticipate from Kundra?

While Kundra’s announcement caused quite a stir in the technology sector, it still remains to be seen if he will have the authority to mandate change or if he will just be a technology advisor to Obama. His role may be limited to making technology recommendations which then have to be adopted into individual agency policies instead of presenting a common technology policy for the government as a whole.

One can only hope that one of Kundra’s first recommendations includes leveraging what has become the de facto global financial reporting open standard — XBRL — to tag and track the billions of Recovery Act dollars. The Obama Administration has committed to enabling an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

Kundra will have to look no further than to the U.S. SEC’s use of RSS feeds and FTP sites to post the recent filings as XBRL. The SEC’s bold move enabled developers to build applications to consume and analyze the data in almost real-time with levels of data accuracy and granularity that could never before be achieved with screen-scraping from untagged data or PDF formats. Previously, the information was only available in normalized data feeds from pay-per-view data aggregators. In another encouraging example and move towards transparency from China, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) recently announced that it has rolled out a platform enabling the download of listed companies’ information tagged with XBRL. As the global financial community moves to free up data in a more accessible manner, the time is now for the U.S. federal government to take similar actions.

It remains to be seen if XBRL will be adopted to track the disbursement and use of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, enabling more effective regulation and providing investors consistent, comparable reporting on the existing pool of securitized assets. Hopefully, Kundra will be listening when XBRL-US presents its report to the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a hearing today in the U.S. Congress on “Assessing Treasury’s Efforts at Preventing Waste and Abuse of TARP Funds.” Yet another opportunity to leverage open standards to aid in federal transparency efforts.

In a recent memorandum, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Director, Peter Orszag, describes a planned May 5th launch of a series of Award Transaction Data Feeds. All federal agencies will now be required to provide all Recovery Act assistance transactions in the standard format currently provided to USASpending.gov. In the memo, Orszag placed a high priority on delivering an “accurate display” of information related to the Recovery Act on Recovery.gov. Federal agencies are now scrambling to ensure they comply and that all reporting related to Recovery Act funding is complete and accurate.
It’s not a “window to the federal data” that will allow developers to leverage and create valuable applications, but rather access to the raw data itself, preferably with open standards-based tags from a shared common federal taxonomy of terms. We’re tired of screen-scrapping and trying to data map disparate data sources across federal government agencies. Hopefully federal agencies like the OMB will listen to Kundra and take a page from Facebook and the iPhone and create an open standards-based platform. Then, the application developers will come in droves.
Building an app is easy when you don’t have to worry about shifting data sources, proprietary platforms, and an ever-changing myriad of web services.

Creating a Comprehensive Plan

The key to the success of this plan is to ensure that there is some agreement across all federal agencies that defines a shared common ‘open’ data standard and identifies how deeply they are willing to push the tagging of data gathered into the collection processes for Recovery Act funding applications and into the financial reporting between the federal, state, and local agencies who are to be the recipients of the Recovery Act funds. Currently, the plan is to only go one level deep — the federal agency will require recipient reporting only from the primary agency receiving the funds.
For instance, a grant could be given from the Federal government to State A, which then gives a sub grant to City B (within State A), which hires a contractor to construct a bridge, which then hires a subcontractor to supply the concrete. In this case, State A is the prime recipient and would be required to report the sub grant to City B. However, City B does not have any specific reporting obligations — nor does the contractor or subcontractor — for the purposes of reporting to the Recovery.gov website.
In Spain, XBRL has been used right down to the municipal level for the reporting and monitoring of Local Government Budget Reporting; there’s no reason not to encourage all levels of government agencies to increase information sharing.

Kundra’s Potential Impact on XBRL 

Kundra could really drive XBRL forward by insisting that all the data, right down to actual recipients, be made available as long as that data did not breach privacy and security of individuals. As accounting packages and ERP vendors like SAP are all adding XBRL export functionality to their offerings to facilitate SEC filings, it would be a natural next step to get XBRL-tagged reports all the way down to the contractor and sub-contractor levels.
Obama’s team should really take a close look at the Dutch and Australian efforts to breakdown the governmental information silos with their move to a Standard Business Reporting (SBR) approach. The Dutch and Australian governments recognized the interdependent nature of government agencies and the increased need for information-sharing via a standards-based approach and are relying heavily on the XBRL standard in their eGov efforts to give their countries an extra edge of efficiency.

Kundra should court developers by providing an open standards-based, open source tool chain, giving examples and explaining in clear language how to create applications in the same manner that Apple and Facebook have done. If built on the solid open data standard foundation laid by U.S. SEC and the XBRL consortium, this should ensure — as long as data is free and open — that applications will flourish and shine some long-awaited sunlight on government spending. 

Empower the world’s developers to make the Recover.gov data more useful and understandable for users rather than creating reliance on Federal government contractors to develop more websites for displaying data. Developers everywhere are eager to create meaningful applications that will connect users to financial data and solve real-world problems. Free the data, and the application developers will follow.

###

 

Diane Mueller has been actively involved in the development efforts of the XBRL standard for the past nine years. She is the Canadian representative to the XBRL International Steering Committee, serves as Vice Chair of that body, and chairs the XBRL Working Groups on Rendering and Software Interoperability. She currently serves as vice president of XBRL development at JustSystems, the largest independent software vendor in Japan and a worldwide leader in XML and information management technologies. Learn more about JustSystems at http://www.justsystems.com, and contact Diane at [email protected].

 

About JustSystems and XBRL

Along with the SEC, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) Foundation, XBRL International, and many other organizations worldwide, JustSystems has been aggressively supporting the development of the XBRL standard and integrating the interactive data format into its xfy platform. JustSystems’ software solutions work with XBRL to enable a richer way of working with and utilizing information, leveraging our technology around information search and retrieval, semantics, document management, and data integration. To learn more about how to accelerate the creation, quality, and consistency of the financial content that your organization produces and consumes today or to participate in the JustSystems beta program, please visit http://na.justsystems.com/xbrl_blog/.

 

Read the original blog entry...

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...