Some of the work we are investing in this summer centers around assessing what data is important to veterans across the United States. Through our partnership with the API Evangelist we will be helping support work on a landscape analysis of data being made available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), ensuring that the federal agency better serves veterans as part of its mission. Helping put APIs to work to make data more accessible and usable across the federal agency that is here to support veterans in their journey once their military service has ended.
Conducting a landscape analysis in order to better understand where valuable data and API resources already exist is something we are really good at, and we actively work to help companies, organizations, institutions, and government agencies with all of the time. With this round, we are just helping the VA discover their own data resources, and work to identify which data sets would be most valuable as APIs when it comes to serving veterans on a daily basis via the web, mobile, desktop, and device-based applications. To assist us identifying what data is already being made available we are scanning existing VA websites for the following data signals:
– CSV Files – Any comma separated file that has already been published to the website.
– Spreadsheets – Any spreadsheets that have already been published to the website.
– XML Files – Any XML files that have already been published to the website.
– JSON Files – Any JSON files that have already been published to the website.
– Tables – Any pages that have tables on them with rows over 5.
– Forms – Any pages that have a form submission for search, or other data retrieval.
We will be spending several weeks scanning the existing VA website looking for existing data resources, which we will be compiling into a single list of available data assets. Once we’ve reached a critical mass of valuable data sets we will work to begin prioritizing some of them, assessing traffic and sharing patterns of existing website users, while also reaching out to veterans to better understand what is actually important to them. While we wish there were enough resources to turn ALL data into APIs at the federal agency, we need to do the hard work of prioritizing which projects should come first–with the mandate of ensuring they provide the highest possible value to the veterans as it possibly can.
We call this process our low hanging fruit, data landscape analysis. We feel pretty strongly that all data which is already is available via any website should also be available via APIs, as well as event-driven, and streaming architecture. If it is already on the website it means it has already made it passed the legal department, and probably has value to someone. APIs are just the next evolution of the web, and instead of just making data available to humans in the browser, we are also ensuring it will also be available on mobile, spreadsheets, and other channels. While also ensuring the data can be used to train machine learning models, and drive the next wave of artificial intelligence being developed to serve veterans throughout their journey.
If you are a veteran this Memorial Day, we’d love to hear more about what data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is of the most value to you. Right now we are focusing on data that is personally identifiable like health records, so think about public data resources like hospital and mental health treatment facilities, or education and training related opportunities–public data that can be used to help improve the lives and families of veterans. Also, thinking more about this Memorial Day, maybe considering data that we can put to work in helping us remember and pay tribute to the soldiers in our lives who have passed, making it easier to identify their cemetery plots, who they served with, or possibly where they were stationed. We’d love to hear your thoughts on interesting data that we should be shining a light on as we work to help make the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) data more accessible and usable via web APIs.