How can the U.S. Department of Treasury make sure that its federal spending data is useful to decision makers and private sector innovators?
- William Long
- Maya Perl
- Anna Ponting
- Ni Xu
- Cindy Yang
On our first day of class, we learned that by the end of the semester, the U.S. Department of the Treasury would relaunch USAspending.gov, the federal government’s spending transparency website. It would offer the public a user-friendly financial transparency tool with new capabilities and more extensive data, giving access to timely and accurate information. We were brought in figure out how users might best use the data, build on it, and create value.
After dozens of user interviews, we learned that for small business owners, the procurement process is a daunting multi-step process to navigate alone. Because they are more resource constrained, they turn to government resource centers like the Small Business Administration, instead of more sophisticated (but expensive) commercial data services.
We prototyped Businesses Like Me (try out our tool for yourself!), a simple web portal that analyzes spending data from the perspective of small businesses. It helps business owners answer and understand differences in spending along multiple categories:
- If the owner of a small graphic design firm wanted to know whether certification is “worth it”, she could go to the Businesses Like Me to search for similar businesses that have certifications.
- A catering provider thinking of opening shop in a new city could see the Department of Education spending differences on food across geographies for businesses her size.
- A steel manufacturer, a vendor to the Department of Defense, could view the differences in spending on specific sub-products.
U.S. Department of Treasury should also consider the following insights as they continue to improve their data: 1) businesses want actionable, forward-looking data that can help them plan the procurement process; 2) businesses and data firms want insights and second-order takeaways beyond the raw data; and 3) data/analytics firms need open, standardized entity identifiers to enhance data interoperability and better identify business categories.