The federal government’s CIO.gov web site put together what seems like a smart-looking interactive map showing where some 137 federal data centers are slated to be closed or consolidated this year as part of the White House Office of Management and Budget’s announced plans last year to dramatically reduce the number of government data centers.
The map provides two options: View List of Closures (Locations 1) and View Interactive Map (Locations 2). The List of Closures has locations for only 56 of the 137 data centers and the interactive map shows only 36 data centers. So what happened to the remaining data centers?
There are 137 data centers in the data set available for download, but it turns out 81 data centers do not have specific locations (latitude and longitude).
Any map is severely limited, even misleading, by only showing less than half its subjects–in this case, data centers. Certainly some data center’s locations are not provided for security reasons, but at least the reason for so many missing locations should be given.
In addition, when I mouse over the Data Center Location Column, I see the latitude and longitude in parentheses, but the data is not available for use in mapping so I had to manually extract it to Latitude and Longitude columns. I found that two Alaska and two Washington, DC data center locations appear to be in error so readers can have more confidence in the map Locations 2 that I produced than the one produced from the downloaded data set using Locations 1! The two maps can be compared below and interactive versions are provided on a wiki site I maintain for the Semantic Community.
Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative Locations 1-View List of Closures: There are 137 Data Centers in the data set available for download, but 81 Data Centers do not have specific locations (Latitude and Longitude). So any map is severely limited, even misleading, by only showing less than half the Data Centers. In addition this map shows four locations that are clearly wrong.
Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative Locations 2 – View Interactive Map: There are only 36 Data Centers CIO.gov map. This map, similar to the one above, shows the locations of the data centers from the CIO.gov interactive map and does not have the four mis-located data centers in the above map.
As Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the Web) pointed out this past year, “Journalism is going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyze it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.”
This example from Data.gov shows the need for more in-depth analysis of maps and other graphics that are presented on government Web sites in general and Data.gov in particular.
I Tweeted on June 17th: Data.gov does not host 389,681 data sets as it implies. Moreover, Data.gov has not spawned a global movement of adoption and use that many had hoped. We will not see an explosion of Data.gov platform apps, in response to outgoing Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s White House Blog Post, entitled From Data to Apps: Putting Government Information to Work for You.
The shortcomings of the data tied to these charts provide just some of the reasons why.