I have been trying out the General Services Administration’s new portal for Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or GWACs.

There is a lot of useful information here, but the user experience remains uneven and in my experience, there are available tools that could improve the ability to analyze the data.

The new GSA web site says:

A Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) is a pre-competed, multiple-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract that agencies can use to buy total IT solutions.

The GWAC program has taken their data to the next level by creating an interactive tool that allows GWAC stakeholders to view and segment GWAC information to make better decisions.

Users have the ability to:

  • Explore GWAC data by contract family, federal agency, and industry partner
  • Build customized reports and download them to your computer
The GWAC Dashboard is compatible with Internet Explorer 8 and 9 using Flash Player 14.4.X. If you are using any other version, you may experience usability issues.

The Users Guide contains the footnote:

The Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) Dashboards are intended for informational purposes. The data contained within may not be fully accurate.

The contacts page says:

Request for accessible dashboard content may be directed to [email protected].

That may be important to some users, since they, like I experienced, may not be able to download the complete data set. That’s what happened to me, so I contacted the GSA contact, but did not get a response so I downloaded each agency separately and merged them into one spreadsheet 19,168 rows and 18 rows. I also created a data dictionary spreadsheet.

Keep reading →

The U.S. General Services Administration announced today the availability of a new online dashboard tracking historical information about Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC), including task-order data. The dashboard is designed to assist federal agencies with spending analysis, evaluation of past GWAC performance, and IT acquisition planning.

“Over the past several years we’ve received feedback from our federal agency customers and our small business partners indicating that they need access to GSA’s GWAC task-order data,” said GSA Federal Acquisition Service Acting Commissioner Mary A. Davie. Keep reading →

U.S. Chief Information Officer Todd Park talks about Health Datapalooza: A Model Of Innovation. The U.S. Census Bureau says Imagination at Work! Unleash Your Creativity With Our Census API.

Both deal with data. But which should it be: Innovation or creativity or both?

It’s question that deserves more than casual considering, and one I’m currently giving thought to for the upcoming Breaking Gov 38 Degrees Unleashing the Power of Government Data, Sept. 19, in Washington, DC.

It’s worth comparing the definitions. Wikipedia says: Keep reading →

Portion of infographic from the The Guardian. Download the PDF.

Those in the data community looking for new ways to express complex concepts might find this “Atlas of Olympic success”, visualized for the Guardian newspaper, to be a great example.

This graphic, by Paul Scruton, Kari Pedersen and John Burn-Murdoch answers the question: How do you show the thousands of medals (12,989 to be exact) which have been won at the Olympics without the interactivity of the web? You can download this as a PDF and print it out. Keep reading →

FedStats.gov provides links to government data at http://www.fedstats.gov/qf/

Data.gov has been around for about three years now and is touted as the prime example of the Open Government Data Initiative based on its growth in number of data sets and communities using them. However, there have been two activities that have been around much longer, with more high-quality data sets, and a larger community, namely FedStats.gov and FedStats.net, which deserve continued attention in the government data community.

I was part of the FedStats Team that built FedStats.gov and led the FedStats.net Team. (You can read more about that team in a related story.) We received the Gore Hammer Award for that work to “Reinvent Government.” While Data.gov has helped focus attention on available government data, I see trying to reinvent that reinvention without the expertise that we had across the government at that time. The Data.gov Agency Points of Contact are not the same as the Federal Statistics Community. Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: Aviation Warrior is a tiny $5 million contract with enormous potential, given the legions of American and allied helicopters around the world.

Raytheon unveiled the system this morning here. Essentially, it’s an advanced heads-up display on the pilot’s helmet — with colored maps and symbology to help pilots cope with dangers such as brownouts and powerlines coupled with a small, ruggedized hard drive and an arm band device that shows Blue Force tracking information. Keep reading →

This headline above – from a Commerce Department apps challenge hosted on Challenge.gov – attracted my attention. So I decided to take the challenge to develop apps using the 2010 Census Summary File 1 and the American Community Survey (five-year data). Keep reading →

During the recent Big Health Data Palooza Tweet Up, Todd Park, the nation’s new Federal chief technology officer, tweeted: “Librarians becoming the new data liberators – check out what the NLM is doing.”

So I did, to see if I could readily use their data that the National Library of Medicine makes available.

What I found though is a problem that continues to plague many agency sites and their offerings of data to the public, namely, an collection of Application Programming Interface (APIs) that make it harder than it should be to get to their data.

Specifically, what I first found on NLM’s site was a table with three columns by 21 rows linking me to lots of technical information for developers to get the data. I was expecting a Web interface to the actual data. While the API provides direct, high-level access to data contained in databases, the user still has to do some programming to do thinks such as combine multiple data sources into new applications known as mashups.

I did just that, by creating a dashboard the shows the work required to mashup the RxNorm and RxTerms APIs, for instance, and the documentation and actual data, so that a non-developer, like our readers, might use this information more readily.

Betsy Humphrey, Deputy Director of NLM, recently hosted a “Showcase of NLM APIs” to provide a high-level introduction to eight of NLM’s Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), where she said:

“Todd Park, our current Federal CTO, has been known to say that the NLM was into open data before it was cool and we are proud of the fact that for more than four decades we have actually been making information that we collect, organize, and curate available for use by system developers to develop additional value added products that extend the usability and value of what we do here at NLM. We encorage you to make use of these APIs and create innovative and wonderful products from them and we hope to hear from many of you that attempt to use them.”

But as described in the “Showcase of NLM APIs”: APIs are fairly old utilities with a very simple interface where you simply post a URL to our services and get back a response. NLM has about 600 million records, gets about 60 million requests per day for about 0.5 Terabytes of data per day. This is a “big data” operation, but for mostly programmers.

So after considerable effort, I concluded that NLM has interesting data, but it needs more work to package it for broader consumption by non-programmers.

As I reported previously, NLM’s Semantic Medline, which does not use an API, but delivers the actual data and visualizations of it, is considered their “killer app”, but is not well-known yet. I have had a great experience with it so far and work in progress will hopefully make it more well-known. Keep reading →

The White House launched a new website today devoted to government ethics practices, fulfilling the President’s campaign promise to create a single website for searches related to executive branch ethics and influence data.

The new website is part of the administration’s Data.gov website, and can be found at Explore.data.gov/ethics. The site provides the public the ability to enter a name and search government data, to see available records on individuals in government-“including campaign finance, lobbying, and White House visitor records,” according to the site. Keep reading →

Chris Vein works for two prominent Obama administration officials who are always in the limelight. Consequently Vein doesn’t get a lot of publicity. If you do a search on his name, the “news” results shows very little.

And that’s all fine with Vein, the deputy Chief Technology Officer. He reports to the chief technology officer (the post Aneesh Chopra held before stepping down earlier this month) and also to John Holdren, the senior advisor to the president for Science and Technology. Both have been highly visible – and in Holdren’s case, controversial – appointees.
This article originally appeared on FedInsider.com
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