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Open Government Blog Post

Guest Blog produced by: Census Bureau’s Open Government Senior Leader

At the Census Bureau, we collect data— you may have evenparticipated in some of our collection efforts, like the decennial census, the American Community Survey or the Current Population Survey. But did you know that data dissemination is an equally important responsibility? Right now, we are working on several initiatives aimed to make our data more accessible than ever before. Everyone from survey respondents, researchers, developers and members of the public rely on Census Bureau statistics, and we must meet all of their needs.

One way that many Americans interact with Census Bureau data is through our website. This year, we redesigned Census.gov to make it easier for you to find what you need. We found that our customers wanted to browse information by topic, so we updated the site’s navigational features. We also released new interactive data tools, like the revised Population Clock and Census Flows Mapper. One particularly exciting change is the improved search function — users now can search population, poverty and income for a desired location and get statistics within the search results. Whether customers are looking for quick facts or detailed information for their communities, we have a tool for them to find the information they need. And even more improvements are on the way.

The improved search function is one example of a feature that is possible because of our Open API — a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing data. We launched the API in 2012 to give developers access to high-value data sets from our surveys and other key economic indicators, and we are continually adding new data sets.

 The API delivers easy access to our data and allows developers to combine it with other sources to create tools that benefit the public. For example, My Congressional District, a tool on census.gov, provides users with statistics about congressional districts by pulling data from the Census Bureau’s API. We are continuing to solicit feedback from developers to improve the API and often attend local meet ups and hold internal codeathons to generate ideas.

As the authoritative source for legal and statistical geographic boundaries in the U.S, our Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) suite of products provides another example of how we are innovating to disseminate data. TIGER is a digital geographic database that automates the mapping and related geographic activities required to support the Census Bureau’s census and survey programs.  We recently launched TIGERweb, a set of APIs, services and a Web application for disseminating and visualizing geospatial data. TIGERweb allows our customers to easily use Web map services directly in their applications and contains scores of detailed geographic layer data.

Through these and other innovative tools, the Census Bureau continues to lead the way in Open Government goals and objectives. We have also held recent webcasts that allow the public to learn first-hand how and why we collect data. We are committed to developing more and better ways to make data accessible to our diverse range of customers, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

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