Google Public Data

The 2002 E-government act required government agencies to make data and information more electronically available. However, government websites, notoriously messy, confusing, and unorganized have not become more user-friendly. Take for instance, the epa website. Comparatively, it has become far more colorful and attractive than previous epa websites, but the multiple boxes, buttons, pictures, that crowd each page make navigation difficult. Google Public Data, google’s newest tool, makes it easier to find government information. There is however a catch, and that catch is similar to other problems with using the internet as a reliable source of information. A user can search for a piece of data in Google Public Data, and that data will pop up. However, there is no way for the user to tell if that data is accurate, or free of typos and other data entry errors. The data may also lack context.

Along with the three Rs, it is now increasingly important that people are taught about data and the internet. I didn’t use the internet as a research tool during elementary school and middle school – I remember looking at encylopedias and going to the library. It’s not that people don’t use the library anymore, but many people will type a question into google and then take the information they receive back at face value. My sister, now 12 years old, uses the internet for answers to questions all the time. Now, I don’t know if this is already happening, but a new curriculum needs to be developed so that people become active consumers of the internet and data – with the ability to not only interpret data, but also to convey it in such a way that it is understandable to others, and to figure out when the patterns in the data seem inconsistent or incorrect.

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