THE NEW GOLD RUSH

There’s a new gold rush. But it’s not for gold, it’s for data. Get your hands on the right data and you can build an important new website. Recently- available U.S. government data has resulted in these sites and apps:

MedWatcher.org, a free app for staying up to date on government warnings about prescriptions.

CountyHealthRankings.org, provides a lot of statistics on each U.S. county, including the percentage of binge drinkers, teen birth rate, the violent crime rate, the pollution level and so on.

Popular Science magazine has an app for finding about the latest earthquakes. The data comes from Data.gov/raw/34/ which has earthquake info for the last seven days.

The data that powers these sites did not come easily. It all started when the guys who founded BrightScope.com, a retirement-plan comparison site, lobbied the U.S. government for more data. The government responded that they could deliver it in paper form: it would come in 1,400 large boxes. (Oh, boy. That’s handy.) The guys from BrightScope said forget that, we need it in electronic form. After much pushing and shoving, the result was Data.gov, which began with 47 categories of U.S. government data online about a year ago and now has 2,326 data sets.

Earthquake data is the most popular (whole lot of shaking going on), with 122,888 downloads. In second place are the latest ten volumes of the U.S. historical record on foreign relations. Third most popular is info on U.S. overseas loans and grants. For more info, search on “data.gov” at Radar.Oreilly.com.

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