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Blog Category: Digital Government Strategy

More Data in the Census Bureau API to Help You #hackforchange

Guest blog post by Logan Powell, Developer Engagement Lead, U.S. Census Bureau

Two years ago, the Census Bureau launched its application programming interface (API), giving developers access to a variety of high value data sets, including our flagship 2010 Census and American Community Survey five-year statistics, providing information for every neighborhood in the nation. Since that initial launch, we have added key economic indicators, as well as the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, and additional American Community Survey data and key economic indicators.

By continuing to release new data sets into the API, and adding more of the Census Bureau’s rich economic statistics to our demographic products, we are giving developers greater flexibility to create new tools to better understand our communities and solve real world issues. Recently, we released even more data sets to the API. These include population estimates, establishment and payroll data from county business patterns, nonemployer statistics, and the latest statistics from the 2012 Economic Census. These statistics allow developers to create a variety of apps and tools, such as ones that allow business owners to find the latest establishment data needed to plan for new or expanded business.

We are continuing to work toward meeting the goals of the Digital Government Strategy for a more “customer-centric” approach. For example, the Census Bureau partnered with Data Innovation DC, a Washington, D.C. meet up group of 1,000 members composed of data scientists, data journalists, civic hackers and data-oriented entrepreneurs, and participated in this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking. We asked real-life data users to discuss their data-related problems. By directly engaging with our customers, we can develop strategies to make our statistics easier to use so that customers can make data-driven decisions. 


We will continue searching for ways to make more of our data available for developers to build apps that make our public data more accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device. By taking part in both local and national “civic hacking” events, we hope these relationships will help us to build stronger ties with our customers while reaching new audiences with our statistics.

I encourage you to visit our API, look for ways to combine our statistics with other sources, and create useful apps that will benefit the public. We look forward to what you will create. 

New Census Mobile App Showcases Local Statistics for People on the Go

New Census Mobile App Showcases Local Statistics for People on the Go

America has always been a nation on the move. Whether you are looking for a career change or a new neighborhood to call home, life decisions affect each of us every day. With roughly half of Americans now owning smartphones, everyone should be able to access the wealth of statistics the Census Bureau collects to make informed decisions on the go, whether at home or on the road. What good are data if nobody but the experts can easily access them? The Census Bureau uses 21st century technology to meet its centuries-old mission, making the statistics that define our growing, changing nation more accessible to the public than ever before.

The Census Bureau’s new mobile app, dwellr, (iOS / Android) provides those on the go with immediate, personalized access to the latest demographic, socio-economic and housing statistics from the American Community Survey for neighborhoods across the nation. Using the level of importance you places on a location’s characteristics, the app generates a list of top 25 towns or cities most suitable for you. Once you have used the app, it saves your selections on your phone so you can see how they match up against each new place you visit.

With more than 30 million Americans moving last year, dwellr allows for quick and easy access to information to help make the decision, including the ages of residents, how many families have children, median income and housing costs. Dwellr allows Apple and Android smartphone users to explore a range of questions making it a powerful tool for homebuyers, members of the military being deployed domestically, real estate agents, new businesses and teachers helping students learn about their communities.

The statistics in dwellr are only the beginning of a powerful story you can tell with Census Bureau data. Imagine if an app matched your preferences with restaurant reviews, places with museums or most visited parks. With the Census Bureau’s Application Programming Interface, developers can take the same statistics found in dwellr and apply them to any app they can imagine. We are eager to see new applications of these American Community Survey statistics that help people learn more about their communities using the same information businesses use to plan investments and services. These statistics, along with the Census Bureau’s other economic information, provide timely, critical information on the health of the U.S. economy.

The app is just the latest product from the Census Bureau’s digital transformation and provides statistics to more Americans in a new and user-friendly way. It follows the successful release of our hugely popular America’s Economy mobile app, which now has more than 100,000 downloads. Coming soon, you will see an upgraded census.gov website with enhanced search and navigation features that are based on several years of customer feedback. We continue to open up more of our data to developers as part of our API, including 30 years of decennial statistics in addition to the American Community Survey statistics that power dwellr.

As we continue to align ourselves with the Digital Government Strategy, our free mobile apps are just one way we are making our statistics available anytime, anywhere, and on nearly any device.

Download dwellr from the Google Play or Apple store today and begin learning more about where you are and where you could go in the future.

Digital Government Strategy Brings Big Changes to the Commerce Department

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, an effort by the Administration to transform public-facing government services in line with 21st century expectations. The Department of Commerce has made some big strides in providing better information to citizens in a timely manner through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices. The goal is to make citizen services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

Technology is changing so rapidly that nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone today, up from 35% only one year ago. To help keep pace with the rapid deployment of mobile technology, Commerce is working hard to ensure our services and data are available to citizens in whatever format and on whatever device they prefer. For example, earlier this week, NOAA released a mobile app to provide free nautical charts for recreational boaters to ensure safer and easier boating. NOAA is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version of their Shortfin Mako Shark Live Release app for public release next week. The success of these apps builds upon the America’s Economy app from the U.S. Census Bureau that already has more than 90,000 downloads.

We also have released the additional data for public consumption. For example, the International Trade Administration has released an application programming interface (API) for Export Trade Events so that data can be used by other organizations to pull the most relevant events for their members. The Department's Bureau of Industry and Security created the Commerce Control List Order of Review Decision Tool, a new web-based tool to assist exporters in understanding changes being made as part of the Administration's Export Control Reform Initiative. All information available for public use is on Data.gov and also on our new Developer page. The release of this data and APIs is intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access government data in ways that make it easier to use and program.