Posted on 10-17-2013
During the recent federal government shutdown many sources of open data and APIs were suddenly rendered unavailable, including the flagship Data.gov. As government workers went home and lights were turned off at federal agencies, so too were the servers that hosted much of the open data and APIs that have been opened up in the last couple years.
Across the web I've encountered discussions from many individuals who state this is how government services work. When government funding disappears, the government services go away, suck it up.
I'm sorry, but this is unacceptable in the Internet age. If you see things this way, you are part of the machine that allows government services to be used as a political tool. I agree, that human powered government services go away when funding disappears, but in the age of open data, APIs and the cloud, services are designed and deployed to be self-service and highly available.
When you launch APIs in the cloud, you bundle your budget, service level agreement and the tech into a single package. My funding went away this month and couldn't afford my AWS bill on 10/1, but my server didn't shut down the minute the shutdown happened. I had until the end of the month. Ideally the federal government could go with reserved instances annually or at least quarterly, securing the funding needed to outlast any shutdown.
There is no excuse for government open data data and API services to go away during a shutdown like we just experienced. Open data and APIs represent a new, self-service future for government services. This model won't ever completely replace vital government services, but augment the physical services we depend on every day.
The fact that open data and API driven services are bundled with legacy web and physical government services represents a lack of vision, passion and drive to push government services into the digital age. If an agency is not making assets available via open data or APIs, or is bundling them along with other legacy services, they are allowing these services to be used political tool in the current Washington D.C. game.
Let's make sure that open data and APIs are not federal government services business as usual in DC. C'mon it is 2013!
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