What’s the best way to decipher the nation’s $4 trillion budget? For the open data company Socrata, it’s through a new app that takes the president’s 2016 U.S. budget and plots it into interactive graphs and charts for citizens.
On Feb. 9, Socrata released the White House’s 2016 budget through its Open Budget app, part of the company’s new suite of financial transparency applications. While an advertisement for Socrata’s services, the app does deliver a significant amount of depth for citizens who can easily drill down through the numbers, starting with the overall budget, to departments, to the agencies housed within them and finally ending at the dollar amounts allotted for individual expense categories.
An immediate insight from the tool are the highest funded U.S. departments: the Department of Health and Human Services at $1.09 trillion, the Social Security Administration at $1.01 trillion, and the Department of Defense at $586.5 billion.
The app was made possible through the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which decided to release the president’s annual budget report as open data — information made available in a machine-readable format.
“Government budgets can be overwhelming to most citizens,” said Socrata in a statement to Government Technology magazine. “And, when you’re talking about a $4 trillion budget — [such as] the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget — it can seem like you need to be a financial expert to understand it. This financial transparency experience, and others like it, are helping government organizations across the country share their budgets in a meaningful way.”
Of equal note, the launch of the application also hints at Socrata’s partnerships with federal agencies through the recently passed Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, the first and only federal law mandating fiscal transparency through open data. Socrata CEO and Founder Kevin Merritt confirmed in December that the company is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Treasury to pilot a program that would help federal agencies comply with the DATA Act’s requirements to publish agency expenditures as open data.
In 2014 Socrata’s public-sector customers — from city, county, state and federal jurisdictions — totaled more than 200, and the company intends to double the number in 2015.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.