by Peter Galli on May 06, 2009 02:03pm

Microsoft will announce on May 7 an initiative to help  government agencies and developers publish and interact with their data in Windows Azure, the company's cloud computing platform.

One of these is the Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), a cloud-based approach to housing public government data in Windows Azure, making it accessible in a programmatic manner via open standard protocols and application programming interfaces.

The source code for OGDI is being made publicly available through CodePlex, Microsoft's open source hosting site, so that developers may reuse it and provide feedback. Sample code is also being provided for technologies widely used on the Web, including PHP, Python, Flash, JavaScript, and Silverlight.

This initiative helps to provide government with tools focused on increasing responsiveness and access to critical services, streamlined processes and services.

For their part, Microsoft and its partners have developed a robust enterprise architecture approach that enables agencies to meet the technology requirements of government mandates with a familiar set of tools - built on an enterprise-ready, scalable, and easily-managed software-powered architecture.

So, in short, the goal of ODGI is to reduce the cost of publishing government data, and simplifying data access by leveraging cloud computing and open standards.

More information on Microsoft's Open Government Data Initiative can be found here.

To see an implementation of a data service in Windows Azure, using a sample of publicly available government data, visit this reference beta site.

These moves are part of Microsoft's ongoing open government efforts aimed at helping government organizations meet goals of transparency, participation and collaboration, particularly as an ever increasing amount of data becomes necessary and available.

As such, new methods need to be opened up to allow interaction with that data, and Microsoft's OGDI is designed to help public sector entities meet these goals.

This software, which underscores the importance of programmatic access to government data rather than having to download it, will give developers the ability to write programs that access data via Web-friendly programming methods without having to download or host the data; and let them write applications using any technology via open standards.

It also provides easier access to a broad array of government datasets, enabling the building of new and unique applications, while governments will be able to automatically refresh data without having to buy and maintain servers.

Cloud computing is the ideal platform for government data, and the technology is finally available to make it happen,  says John Miri, Senior Fellow at the Center for Digital Government.

"The qualities that government looks for in an information management platform - things like flexibility, scalability, security, performance, and cost efficiency - are all better in a cloud model.  As we see demands for government to become more transparent, collaborative, and interactive, a shift like this in technology architecture just has to happen, " he says.

For governments to become truly open, citizen access to public data in standards-based and interoperable ways is essential at all levels of government.

Given that most federal, state, local and education entities implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), they can meet open government goals of oversight, transparency and accountability through cloud and on-premises solutions such as Microsoft Stimulus360, which helps public sector agencies track, measure, and share information about federal stimulus programs through graphical dashboards and maps.