New Transparency: Recovery.Gov

Recovery LogoThere were lots of complaints that the initial Recovery.Gov website was not very helpful.  That’s changed.  The newly-refreshed website now has lots of new ways of finding and looking at information that is due to pour in next month when the first quarterly reports are due from about 90,000 sources.

Government Executive’s NextGov reporter, Aliya Sternstein provides a good review:

The site offers translations in more than 50 languages, a handful of tutorials, basic and advanced mapping capabilities and feeds from the Federal Business Opportunities Web site and the application site Grants.gov.

Visitors can enter their ZIP codes into a text box on Recovery.gov’s home page to view street maps and aerial views of the locations of the projects in their neighborhoods. Colored maps indicate the concentration of contracts that have been awarded in a certain locale by the intensity of color.

Currently, the site does not have the ability to let users search pages by contractor name, although officials plan to make that functionality available in a couple of months. Future iterations of Recovery.gov will offer intuitive links that, for example, can route users to the recruitment sites of the top 10 contractors based on the amount of money they were awarded. “I think the site will help them get a job,” Devaney said. “I’m not promising that on launch date, but it’s definitely a goal to have that up by the second quarter.”

Other planned improvements will allow outside Web sites and programmers to grab updates and specific data sets for deeper analysis or for paid services such as commercial publications.

She also reports that the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board believes the initial reports may be spotty in terms of quality but, after being subjected to reviews and comments by millions of citizens, the second round in January 2010 will likely be much cleaner.

OMB Watch has also written a review of the upgraded Recovery.Gov site, calling it “less than revolutionary,” but then goes on to catalog the improvements. In parallel to the Recovery Act data sharing effort on spending information, OMB Watch plans to undertake a “proof of concept” project that would mash up this new spending data and its visual display tools with an overlay of data that describes the needs in a geographic area (e.g., poverty, toxic wastes, unemployment) and the performance of the Recovery Act programs (jobs, paved roads resulting in reduced traffic congestion, etc.).

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