Tuesday 5 January 2010

Recovery dot gov datasets criticized

Washington Technology blog has a post today titled "Open Government or hide in plain sight?" The author takes the time to look at the massive amount of data available at the Recovery.gov website which describes itself as "the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse. " It purports to track all the money spent via the Recovery Act and answer the question "Where is the money going?"
However, according to the author, the data available on the site is massive, difficult to work with and doesn't provide much insight; he says "Frankly, I’ve struggled with the spreadsheet for the last quarter of government fiscal 2009. The question that keeps going through my mind is: How are we supposed to use this thing?" It's an interesting point.
I tried looking at a small dataset from the site: the Recovery monies awarded by the Library of Congress during the last quarter. There are 3 awards listed: a grant of $17,679 to Rockford, AL "to place equipped patrol cars on the road" (jobs created = 0) and then two contracts awarded to Oldcastle SW Group (a concrete contractor in Grand Junction, CO) for a total of $1.2 million dollars to do some road repairs in the San Juan National Forest, Dolores CO (number of new jobs created = 0, but they claim that they would've laid off workers were it not for the contract). The project activities descriptions for both these contracts is "Dairy Cattle and Milk Production".
Hmmm. Not sure how Dairy Cattle -or road repairs - come under the purview of the Library of Congress. I don't want to be picky but wouldn't it be nice of the Library of Congress used its Recovery Act monies to create jobs for librarians instead?

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