GPO, Archives issue call to apps developers

Monday - 8/22/2011, 8:35am EDT

Mike White, managing editor, The Federal Register

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The Government Printing Office has joined forces with the National Archives to make government information as accessible, open and transparent as possible by creating a wide array of new online applications.

But the two agencies are taking a hands-off approach, of sorts.

Following a Web revamp of the Federal Register last summer, the agencies recently announced the next step: an Application Programming Interface — or API — that will allow developers to create, all on their own, new applications based on the site's repository of regulatory information.

Mike White, the managing editor of the Federal Register, said the online revamp last summer, which better organized the agency data stored there, helped to lay the groundwork for the latest step.

"About a year ago, we reinvented the Federal Register as an online news journal. And in doing that, we created a lot of new ways at getting at the information there," White said. "But while that works very well, there are even more ways to exploit the data."

With the API launch, the agencies have turned the information over the private and academic sectors, he added, "and we're letting them do whatever they want with it to create applications (and) new tools."

Because of the project's crowd-sourced nature, White said he couldn't predict exactly what those applications might look like. But, he said, ultimately it could help agencies better draft their regulations by garnering more public involvement.

And the accessibility of regulatory information could let members of the public keep a better eye agencies. "Agency accountability is something we have always stressed — it's what the Federal Register is for," White said.

For example, developers could create an app to demystify the agency rulemaking process by showing the differences between a draft, proposed and final rule, White explained. "So you could really see how trends are developing and forming and see how that affects the regulated communities," he added.

The Federal Register has set up a special page for developers with more information.