Jeff Barr's Blog

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Rhode Island Government Web Services

Rhode Island really has their finger on the pulse of what citizens, developers, and citizen developers really want!

First they show that they deeply grok the meaning of what it means to be a Web 2.0 application:

Web 2.0 applications lean towards making small pieces of data available to users in such a way that the data can easily be married to other small pieces of data from disparate sources. If government is to succeed in serving its citizenry and engaging civic participation, government technology decision makers must find a way to resolve the dissonance between the flexibility of Web 2.0 in the private sector and the legacy of restrictive monolithic applications in government. Then they go on to make it clear that they see raw, unfettered access to this data as a fundamental right of an informed citizen:

It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he’s recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street. Wow, that’s awesome. “Simply unacceptable.” Excellent, in fact! Strong words for an employee of a state government. Nicely said, Jim Willis.

So today the State of Rhode Island rolled out a set of GovTracker Web Services. They are all REST-style interfaces, with an RSS option (actually, RSS is the default and a richer XML schema is an option). Access to Board/Commission Membership, Corporations, Elections, Lobbyist Registration, Rules and Regulations, and the State Directory is provided, using a consistent entity model complete with parent-child relationships.

Let’s see how long it takes for someone to hook this up to Google Maps or Yahoo Maps, and for every state to start offering data like this.