What's New in Civic Tech: Federal Agencies Struggle to Meet DATA Act Requirements, Los Angeles Releases Web Analytics Dashboard Guide

Plus, meet the new round of Congressional Innovation Fellows.

by / December 8, 2016

What's New in Civic Tech is a look at highlights and happenings in the world of civic tech.

Several federal agencies still struggle to report expenditure data as deadline approaches

Federal agencies have until May 9, 2017, under the DATA Act to standardize their expenditure data and hand it over to the Department of the Treasury and Office of Management and Budget so it can be displayed on USAspending.gov. But as of Dec. 8, there are more than a few still struggling to meet that timeline.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report updating the progress of 24 of the largest federal agencies in prepping their data for the big date. According to the report, “19 of the 24 … agencies continue to face challenges in their efforts to implement the DATA Act.”

That includes eight agencies that haven’t made it even halfway through the eight steps the Treasury Department laid out for them to follow in order to comply with the act’s timeline. Some have yet to set up workflows for correcting validation errors in the data, some have yet to even inventory their data.

Others are far out ahead in the process. On Dec. 8, Timothy Gribben, chief financial officer of the Small Business Administration, told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations that his agency is already in compliance with the act — six months ahead of schedule. Courtney Timberlake, deputy CFO of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, testified to the committee that her agency’s reporting should “substantially meet DATA Act reporting requirements by May 2017.”

Paula Rascona, director of financial management and assurance for the GAO, told the committee that it’s important for agencies to meet the deadline because once the new administration comes into the White House, it may change agencies’ focus.

“The transition to a new administration presents risks to implementing the DATA Act, including potential shifted priorities or loss of momentum,” she wrote in prepared testimony. “The lack of a robust and institutionalized data governance structure for managing efforts going forward presents additional risks regarding the ability of agencies to meet their statutory deadlines in the event that priorities shift over time.”

Los Angeles releases guide to deploying public Web analytics dashboard

After Los Angeles launched a Web portal Dec. 2 showing hourly analytics on traffic across several city websites, a municipal employee has released a guide to show others how to do the same.

The dashboard — which is similar to projects from Sacramento, Calif., Philadelphia and the federal government — runs off of a program called Analytics Reporter from the federal digital services consultancy 18F. The program pulls data from Google Analytics and uses it to populate visualizations on a public Web page.

The LA dashboard provides insights on a number of topics, including how many people have visited which websites and when, what browsers they were using, what links they clicked and more. The city has used it to determine that the majority of people visiting its main portal are seeking job information.

“The dashboard is part of an effort to highlight transparency, build collaboration across departments, and encourage user-driven Web development,” wrote Jeremy Molayem, a water data fellow in the L.A. mayor’s office, in a Medium post.

A description of the portal is here. The guide to implementing it is here.

TechCongress announces 2017 Congressional Innovation Fellows

TechCongress has named its second annual class of Congressional Innovation Fellows, a group of four that will work with members of Congress and committees for a year to provide expertise and research on technology.

More than 200 people applied for the fellowship program, according to a Dec. 7 press release. The four selected for the positions are:

  • Sunmin Kim, technology editor for the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Americas thought leadership division. Kim has studied engineering at Cornell University and the University of Michigan, and holds a patent related to quantum dots.
  • Christopher Soghoian, principal technology for the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech, technology and privacy project. Soghoian has also worked for the Federal Trade Commission and has been a fellow at Yale Law School and TED.
  • Maurice Turner, a former administrative manager for the city of Newport Beach, Calif., who has more than a decade of municipal experience. Turner holds a cybersecurity strategy degree from Georgetown University and has also worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Apple.
  • Joel Usher, chief executive officer of ridesharing company OpenRide. Usher holds a master’s degree in business administration from Oxford University and a bachelor’s in computer and information science from the University of Maryland, and has more than a decade of experience at the National Security Agency.
Ben Miller Staff Writer

Ben Miller is a staff writer for Government Technology and FutureStructure. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.