The Transportation Department will post ratings for 2,400 lines of tires for consumer safety based on tire tread wear, traction performance and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years.
The Medicare database has previously been available for a fee of $100 on CD ROM. Under the Obama initiative, it can be downloaded free, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database rates car seats for ease of use, evaluating the simplicity of instruction sheets, labels, vehicle installation features and securing the child.
"We're democratizing data," White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Thursday in an interview [Pete Yost, "Government Posting Wealth of Data to Internet," AP via Miami Herald, 2010.01.22].
The Medicare database—once $100, now free, and in Excel and Google-Maps-ready format (well, only csv/txt for now, but they're working on it)! And the LAIC wanted $250 for its measly one-binder housing study? Take a transparency memo, Dwaine!
The Obama Administration still has a long way to go on improving government openness (expect the comment section to fill with the right's favorite talking points). But making these gobs of government data so freely available is a huge step forward. Full and easy access to government data is a necessary step toward full and easy participation in government.
Update 2010.01.28: But the President still needs to crack some skulls down through the bureaucracy. His people are still fighting more FOIA lawsuits than his predecessor did.