Recently I had the pleasure of working on the project that ties two things very important to me together: open government data, and the environment.  It was the way in which we interacted with the data that I truly loved…

As a developer, you know you’ve had this experience:

Some government agency announces that they are finally embracing open data.  The wheels upstairs start to turn dreaming up all the cool apps you’re going to build with this new found bounty. But then it happens, you get to the part of the announcement that describes the format, and all the wind comes out of your sales…flat file.  Your dreams of building apps that would make you the envy of your peers, would get you written up on TechCrunch, and discussed at length on YCombinator are now being replaced by thoughts of the hours it’s going to take to set up the database and worries about scheduling the update process to ensure your data is even close to up to date.  Your fast lane to fame and fortune just became the traffic jam heading to cottage country on the Friday of a long weekend.

OGDI goes a long way to solving this problem.

The fine developers of the Open Government Data Initiative have obviously been through this headache enough times that they decided to do something about it.  The open source project (hosted on codeplex) allows any government agency the ability to not just publish their data, but actually provide developers of all types real tools to access it.  Exposing a RESTful service, producing many different output formats including XML, KML, Json and Jsonp, the Azure backed framework saves developers countless hours and dollars by, in many cases, providing everything that the client developer needs from the server tier.  Not willing to leave good enough alone, the OGDI framework provides an interactive SDK that allows you to set up any of the queries that you need while seeing the results of said queries, while also providing example code for multiple different programming languages.  Given all this, I certainly expect OGDI to quickly become the defacto standard for the public sector to engage the development community.

Once the correct decision was made to move most of the data to OGDI (using DataDOTgc’s instance), I was tasked with migrating the data.  Most of the hard work had already been done by the rest of the team (especially Matthew Dance) in shaping the data into the normalized format that we required.  Armed with a SQL Server database full of data and the many tools that are available for moving data into the cloud, all it took was a couple of hours to successfully upload all of the data.  Once it was up, all the features provided by OGDI worked like a charm.

To show you exactly what I mean about how easy OGDI makes app development, in the very near future I’ll be blogging throughout the entire process of porting the project to Windows Phone 7, Stay tuned…

this article originally published on 4MK

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