A hashtag reporting the location of downed power lines. Medication error reports from the US Food and Drug Administration available through APIs. A crowdsourcing tool to geotagged photos of disaster areas to help first responders. These varied technologies are part of a major open data initiative underway at White House — and they're being propelled by a series of data-fests called Datapaloozas.

What's a Datapalooza? Think of a party that attracts a curious blend of data geeks, entrepreneurs, industry hotshots, politicians and bureaucrats. They come together in the hope of turning vast amounts of government data into apps and computer programs that anyone or any business can use.

Opening Government Data Vaults

Brian Forde, senior advisor to the US Chief Technology Officer, described the public-private partnership events as opportunities to use open data as the foundation of useful products, services and innovations. Like similar efforts on a smaller scale in New York and other cities, the initiative encourages the development of apps that utilize public data to benefit the public — a confluence of resources that could only happen at this time in the history of apps, big data, inexpensive and powerful devices, and high speed connections.

“For the first time in history, we’ve opened up huge amounts of government data to the American people and put it on the Internet for free,” Forde told CMSWire. There are more than 75,000 data sets available at, ranging from what various hospitals charge for the same procedures to measurements of weather and climate.

But there’s still much more data to mine. Forde said “many more government datasets are still hard to find or are locked up in unusable formats.” It's the reason why the Obama Administration is now requiring governmental agencies to release newly generated data in common machine-readable formats.

It symbolizes what Forde described as “the liberation of government data.”

In the past few years, there have been a series of Datapaloozas that brought together government officials and key stakeholders. The goal is to showcase solutions that utilize these newly freed rivers of information and encourage the development of new ones. The events, including ones centered around health, safety, educationenergy and emergency preparedness, have resulted in multiple new apps, tools and services.