The US Census Bureau has released its very first public API, allowing developers to create web and mobile apps based on the government's collection of demographic and economic statistics. The Bureau launched the API Thursday, alongside a new "app gallery" website where users can view and download apps that have already been built.
With the API, developers will have access to two sets of statistical databases: the 2010 Census, and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey. The former includes the latest data on population, age, sex, race, and home ownership, while the latter offers more socio-economic statistics, covering fields like education, income, and employment.
The Census Bureau is encouraging developers to create apps that are customized to consumer needs, and to share their ideas on its Developers Forum page. Thus far, there are already two apps available on the Bureau's site. Age Finder allows users to retrieve population counts for specific age groups across multiple years, or for a customized range across age, sex, and location. A second app, developed by researchers at Cornell University, provides poverty rates across all New York counties, sortable by age, sex, and race.
With its API and new web platform, the Bureau is aiming to expand its data to broader audiences, while heeding President Obama's call for greater digital transparency across government agencies. "We hope to see many apps grow out of the Census API, as this opens up our statistics beyond traditional uses," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves explained in a statement. "The API gives data developers in research, business and government the means to customize our statistics into an app that their audiences and customers need."