As July 4 approaches, the subject of open government data can’t help but be on many U.S. citizens’ minds. That includes the citizens who are responsible for opening up that data to their fellow Americans. They might want to take a look at NuCivic Data Enterprise, the recently unveiled cloud-based, open source, open data platform for government from NuCivic, in partnership with Acquia and Carahsoft. It’s providing agencies an OpenSaaS approach to meeting open data mandates to publish and share datasets online, based on the Drupal open source content management system.
NuCivic’s open source DKAN Drupal distribution provides the core data management components for the NuCivic Data platform; it was recognized last week as a grand prize winner for Amazon Web Services’ Global City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge in the Partner in Innovation category. Projects in this category had to demonstrate that the application solves a particular challenge faced by local government entities. As part of the award, the NuCivic team gets $25,000 in AWS services to further support its open data efforts.
DKAN, the company says, meets U.S. Project Open Data requirements, and includes both the DKAN Dataset and DKAN Datastore, so that open data publishers can easily manage their open data publication process while complying with industry- and government-mandated standards. DKAN includes among its features the ability to: explore, search, add, describe, tag, and group datasets via a web front-end or API; customize metadata fields, themes and branding; use metdata and data APIs, data previews, and visualizations through the Recline.js data visualization tool; and manage access control, version history with rollback, INSPIRE/RDF support, and user analytics.
Though it’s customizable, out of the box it uses the DCAT RDF vocabulary for metadata that is designed to facilitate interoperability between data catalogs published on the Web.
NuCivic’s founders have roots in the government sector. Co-founder and CEO Andrew Hoppin was a public sector CIO in New York, involved in overhauling the state Senate’s IT systems. In a blog he posted when the product launched, he wrote that, “Our strategy is to productize the Drupal content management system to address a full range of government enterprise information software needs, starting with open data…. We think Drupal is a fantastic framework upon which to base civic solutions for many types of functional needs, because of the global scale of the civic-interested engineering community behind it. And we think that our OpenSaaS business model is the ideal way to deliver these solutions to governments, by making it easy, quick, and cheap for some (SaaS), while still truly open without IP friction or vendor lock-in (FOSS) for others.”
Progress on Open Government Data in the U.S. in the last year has included President Obama’s Executive Order to make open and machine readable the new default for government information; endorsement of the Open Data Charter, which sets out five strategic principles that all G8 members will act on, including an expectation that all government data will be published openly by default, alongside principles to increase the quality, quantity and re-use of the data that is released; and the release this May of the U.S. Open Data Action plan. That outlines commitments including improve the way data sets are described and published by better focusing on user needs, using public feedback to prioritize data sets for release; making it simpler for entrepreneurs and innovators to find, understand, and use open government data to develop new products, services, and companies; and recruiting more Data Innovation Fellows to scale data innovation initiatives in climate change, health, energy, education, finance, and public safety.