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Pat Romanski

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Government IT Expo: Social Data Network for Open Government

Socrata.com Enriches .Gov Data With Social Media Features

Socrata, Inc., formerly known as blist, Inc., announced the launch of www.socrata.com, a social network that aggregates public data from around the world in a single destination. The site is designed to increase government transparency, promote civic participation and community collaboration, and improve decision and policy making.

Building on more than 12 months of beta test feedback from more than 40,000 customers in public and private organizations around the world, socrata.com initially is providing free access to more than 200 public datasets.

A public dataset is simply information in a variety of media, primarily text and numbers, as well as richer embedded media types such as documents, pictures, audio and video. These public datasets may be collected, formatted, and published online by government agencies on .gov Web sites (U.S.), or by engaged citizens directly on the socrata.com site. Until now, Web sites focused on public datasets have been difficult to navigate and search, and often required tedious downloading of raw file-types to proprietary applications for offline use by technical individuals. Most of these Web sites were designed prior to the current generation of Web technologies -- including social networking and cloud computing -- and are unable to provide fast access to accurate, up-to-date information in a form that is useful for citizens, businesses and government agencies.

In contrast, socrata.com presents publicly available government datasets in an intuitive, interactive Web environment modeled on today's powerful social networks. The site provides non-technical citizens, journalists, scientists and other online communities with real-time access to public datasets and enables unprecedented power and control to find, view, discuss and share datasets.

Socrata.com enables anyone with a Web browser to find understandable and sortable datasets on a myriad of topics including healthcare, energy, retirement, education or the environment, just to name a few. Users can create customized views and filters of the data based on any criteria in the dataset such as state, zip code or income. Most importantly, these personalized views can then be saved and socialized through an entire social network, whether it be business colleagues, families or others supporting the same cause. As in other social networks, users can create profiles, post comments, rate content, and establish groups for sharing information privately.

"Much has been discussed in recent months about government transparency and citizen participation," said Kevin Merritt, CEO of Socrata, Inc. "Socrata truly allows government transparency to come to life. We are providing publicly available data in an interactive, social format that enables citizens, for the first time, to discover, read, manipulate and share publicly available data with a tool we all have -- a Web browser. Now, the federal government and the U.S. citizenry can finally communicate and reap the benefits of community and participation that has made social networking a part of our everyday lives."

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