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USAFacts Makes Data Engaging With Azure And PowerBI

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The US government serves 321 million people across 90,000 jurisdictions, spending more than $5 trillion a year.

What does our government do with that money? Where does it go? Who does it serve? And what outcomes does it achieve?

These are the questions former CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer seeks to answer through his non-partisan, not-for profit civic data initiative known as USAFacts. The initiative is aimed at making government data (tax revenues, expenditures, and outcomes) more accessible and understandable, specifically by producing reports similar to those produced annually by America’s public corporations – a sort-of Form 10-K for government.

Pulling data from more than 130 government statistical databases and reports such as the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget, USAFacts sought to design a public website to make the information easy to access and consume. To do so, they turned to software design agency Artefact who partnered with GenUI for its software product engineering prowess. Together they built a site using data visualization, based on Microsoft Azure and SQL Server. A REST API is built in .NET for the backend; the frontend is built in React and Victory, with Lunr JavaScript search technology. PowerBI lets people mix and match their own data sets and visualizations.

More than 2.5 million people visited the site within the first 24 hours.

The framework organizes the information around the central missions of government:

  • Establishing justice
  • Ensuring domestic tranquility
  • Providing for the common defense
  • Promoting the general welfare
  • Securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

Visitors to the site start exploring the data at the highest level possible: overall revenue and spending. From there, they can dive deeper into more specific subject areas, like education or defense spending. Within these categories, users can dial in on the data from different perspectives and through different filters, drawing their own conclusions and forming a deeper understanding of government impact.

USAFacts looks nothing like its bureaucratic counterparts or startups like OpenGov, which also tries to organize and parse government data. Its typeface is pleasingly legible. The site navigation is intuitive. But most importantly, Artefact [and GenUI] have made dry facts and figures actually feel engaging. Wired

About USAFacts

USAFacts was founded in 2017 as a non-profit organization offering a non-partisan portrait of the US population, government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. The organization has no political agenda or commercial motive; they rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources and make no judgments nor prescribe specific policies.

About GenUI

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