In support of legislation that would standardize and publish all federal spending data, a group of technology companies will make their case at a public gathering in Washington on May 16. The event, dubbed DATA Demo Day, is timed to coincide with a reintroduction on the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which advocates say would create a raft of opportunities for technology firms and others to create new analytics products harvesting government datasets.
The DATA Act was first introduced to both houses of Congress in 2011 by Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D.-Va.). This year’s version of the bill has yet to be introduced.
More than 20 technology firms, including big names such as EMC, Google, Informatica, Microsoft, Oracle and Teradata, will offer demonstrations in a trade-show format within the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building on how increased access to federal spending data will create new business opportunities.
“Data standards for federal spending create improved public transparency,” says Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, the trade association participating in the event, which is being hosted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “They also present a great opportunity for companies.”
Hollister says the passage of the DATA Act would foster growth for three kinds of companies participating in DATA Demo Day. The first category would be those applying analytics to federal spending data, such as Elder Research, SAS and Oversight Systems. The second includes firms that help companies automate business processes related to regulatory compliance, including WebFilings and Level One. The third group contains companies focused on the republication of information for the purposes of research, such Google and Poplicus.
Level One Technologies has already built a system for the state of Wyoming’s Department of Education to track all of its spending data on both the state and federal level. The firm’s director of marketing, JJ Kirkpatrick, says the passage of the DATA Act would enable Level One to offer similar services using a more automated process to many other states and state agencies. “We’d be ready to go today” if the DATA Act passed, Kirkpatrick says.
Unissant, another exhibitor, specializes in making a variety of public data available to companies, such as government contractors. Should the DATA Act pass this year, the company plans to increase the flow of data between federal agencies and enterprise via an Office 360-compatible solution, through a partnership with Microsoft, to improve regulatory compliance and interoperability.
“The financial crisis was an information crisis,” says Unissant Executive Vice President Mark Bolgiano, who previously headed XBRL US, the nonprofit organization that created federal data standards for financial reporting. “Data standards aren’t the sexiest part of the big data phenomenon, but they’re a very important part.”
WebFilings, a three-year-old company that currently operates a software platform that expedites the creation and filing of XBRL documents to the SEC, plans to offer similar automated tools to government contractors once the legislation passes.
“There’s a demand for a solution that makes that transformation less burdensome and less costly,” says Mike Starr, WebFilings’ director of strategic initiatives. “Our product actually makes the process more efficient.”
Alec Foege, a contributing editor at Data Informed, is a writer and independent research professional based in Connecticut, and author of the book The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Make America Great. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alecfoege.
Correction, May 8, 2013: The original version of this story has been updated to note that Data Demo Day is being hosted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, not the Data Transparency Coalition.
Home page photo of Rayburn House Office Building via Architect of the Capitol.