FCC shares results of Open Developer Day

Tuesday - 11/9/2010, 11:02am EST

Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer, FCC

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By Jamie Blanco
Digital News Writer
FederalNewsRadio.com

The Federal Communications Commission held its first "Open Developer Day" yesterday. And the collaboration of over 100 public and private sector web developers has already led to the rough development of some useful apps utilizing the agency's vast amounts of data.

"It's just like a barn raising," said Greg Elin, the FCC's Chief Data Officer, "where a community would come together...and everyone would build a barn for the community to use. And so in this case, rather than build a physical barn, we're building applications and services."

Elin tells Federal News Radio the FCC already publishes large amounts of information related to the communications industry through database searches and downloads. The agency's goals for 2010 involved making that information available as a data platform through web service API's or Application Programmer Interfaces.

So the agency sponsored its first "Open Developer Day" - which are very common in the private sector - to attract some creative collaborations on just how to get that done. According to Elin, by the end of the meet-up some teams had already created some usable pieces of code.

One of the things that we did put together was a Wiki of some of the developer resources and a place where the community could continue to connect. We had a couple of projects that made some real progress in terms of sketching out some code and actually having some code up and running that involved about three or four hours of effort. We're going to put that code up online...and we're going to link to it from our Wiki.

The "Open Developer Day" Wiki can be found here: www.wiki.citizen.gov.

The Yahoo accessibility team and Yahoo developer network were also on hand at the event to lend their experience in developing web services and tools. Elin said their input was particularly helpful for exploring what kinds of tool sets the FCC needs to make the Commission's work easier.

Elin said the push to web 2.0 is in part a result of the recently passed 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. "We have an obligation under that new act, as the FCC, to actually build a clearinghouse to make it easier for people to find accessible...information communications technologies."

The FCC launched its first web APIs last September on its site: www.fcc.gov/developer. The services made available by some of those applications include: the ability to look up aggregated broadband tests, the ability to look up over 3 million licenses related to spectrum use, and the ability to get census block information which is the "core unit" around which demographic and other government information is connected to geographic information.

Elin said he hopes the collaboration will help the FCC continue to develop and share innovative programs, "and show that we as an agency can actually have a developer day and adopt this tradition...of getting programmers and coders together and having them collaborate, that we can actually bring that into government, as part of open government."