I was listening to Jeanne Holm, Data.gov's data evangelist, via Skype today at Open Data Day Bay Area. Jeanne's presentation made me think about my first real meaningful interaction with federal government data. As an investigator with the San Francisco City Attorney's Office back in 2007, I was trying to find out if a City utility crew leaders was using a private business to do private jobs with his crew during his city work shifts.
His business didn't show up anywhere, not in the Yellow Pages or local business registration listings. But it did show up on FedSpending.org, a precursor to Data.gov and a product of legislation by then-Sen. Barack Obama. Donnie Thomas' utlility company had taken federal contracts with the Coast Guard, and there they were on FedSpending.org. That was my first big break in the case.
Don't let anybody short sell the value of open government data.