District Government's Real-Time Data Program Wins Award

By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 14, 2009; 5:38 PM

The District of Columbia's real-time city data program and a water measurement system developed by the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the University of Idaho were among the six winners of the Innovations in American Government awards announced Monday by the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

The District's is the first government initiative in the country to make real-time, raw government data available to citizens online, according to the Ash Institute.

The District's Citywide Data Warehouse (CityDW) holds raw data from multiple government agencies, which is distributed over 320 data feeds to various websites, including the Digital Public Square and D.C. Data Catalogue, and sites created by residents. City officials say the program has reduced staff workloads since they get fewer information requests. The city also held a contest last year for software developers to create applications using the data, getting 47 entries and avoiding $2.6 million in software development costs.

The water measurement project, developed by the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the University of Idaho, uses government satellite data to measure how much water is consumed by fields and other areas, greatly aiding water management and the litigation of water rights disputes.

"They rolled up their sleeves and made sure this was invented and applied in the field," said James Levitt, director of the Program on Conservation Innovation at the Harvard Forest, Harvard University, who helped choose Idaho's METRIC Mapping Evapotranspiration project out of about 700 applicants for the award. "It was the combination of technical development and field application that made for such a remarkable example in a relatively short period of time, where it's becoming a standard across the west."

The awards are meant to highlight creativity in the public sector and government projects that are novel, politically strategic, measurably effective and transferable to other locations.

The other winners were Massachusetts' Commonwealth Healthcare Connector Authority, which helps people access health insurance; Wraparound Milwaukee, the country's first government-run managed care program for emotionally disturbed youth, helping them stay in their homes rather than residential facilities; a Kingsport, Tenn. program that trains residents in medical and information technology and healthcare fields; and the Chicago arm of a national program that recruits and trains high-caliber principals for under-performing public schools. That program, New Leaders for New Schools, is also run in Baltimore, Prince George's County, Newark, New York and other cities.

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