Chapter 5. Surveying Your Data Resources

Data is the star of the competition, so it’s a natural instinct to publish everything you can. However, you will get better developer buy-in and better apps if you are selective in choosing your competition’s data sets.

In this chapter we cover three questions you can expect to hear from the developers participating in your competition:

  • How is the data structured?

  • What is the content?

  • What is the documentation?

We’ll also address the importance of providing technical support.

Structured Versus Unstructured Data

As you determine the data that will be used in your apps competition, first consider its format. While you may have a lot of data available, it may not be in the correct format to fuel apps.

Structured data resides in fixed fields, as in a database, and is available in a machine readable format. Software developers that all government data be structured.

Unfortunately, most governments store data in paper or digital systems, which are referred to by data programmers as unstructured. Unstructured data includes information in legacy systems such as paper forms, word processing files, magnetic tapes, microfiche, card files, floppy disks, etc.

While valuable and essential for many government operations, unstructured data is not a good platform for an apps competition for several reasons. First, it raises entry barriers for programmers who must first convert the data into a structured format before they can build their app, conduct their analysis ...

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