Open government initiatives are currently going on all over the world. As I look around to see all the data that is publicly available, it amazes me of how far our governments have come along to promote transparency, connect and engage with citizens, and to realise the full potential of mobile, social media, crowdsourcing and other citizen-engagement strategies. We live in a time in which citizens can now readily download available government data, interpret and create their own apps using this information.

At Microsoft, we provide several ways of connecting citizens with governments through open government initiatives. I can talk about Microsoft open government projects for hours, however, I would like to tell you about two. The first is Azure Marketplace, which is a highly scalable framework for tracking and publishing large data sets in the cloud for commercial and public (open data) consumption. A great project that Microsoft recently worked on using Azure Marketplace is with the UK Met Office. UK Met Office is responsible for sharing massive amounts of data on weather with the public. Through a joint effort with Microsoft, the organisation has made its weather data even more accessible for citizens to download via the UK’s Open Government website, and also on Microsoft’s Window Azure Marketplace — where they can customize and create their own apps based on weather data.

Another Microsoft solution is the OGDI DataLab, which is an open source cloud-based open data catalogue that promotes the use of open data by enabling its accessibility and re-use via a Windows Azure cloud-based open development repository. One interesting project Microsoft has worked on with OGDI DataLab is with the Ministry of Health in Italy. The website is in Italian, so I got more curious and converted the site to English using Bing Translator. I was amazed at the wealth of information that the Ministry of Health is sharing. On their website, there is information ranging from a list of all medical devices that are registered with the Ministry of Health to datasets with complete listing of pharmacies that are open to the public, including branch offices, clinics and seasonal dispensaries, among others.

Do you want to learn more about Microsoft’s open government solutions? Check out: http://www.microsoft.com/opengov.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Parul Bhandari, Government Industry Solutions Lead, Worldwide Public Sector