Government data is available, but it’s not exactly accessible. A new project from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer aims to change that. USAFacts is a $10 million effort to present government data in a way that’s open, non-partisan, and easy to understand.
The former Microsoft CEO was renowned for using data to run one of the world’s largest companies, maintaining a deep understanding of revenue, spending, and outcomes at the Redmond tech giant. And now he’s giving U.S. citizens the same types of insights into their government.
In a remarkable and unprecedented application of business principles to government operations, Ballmer launched a non-profit initiative to show how the country is being run.
Ballmer, who was hired by Bill Gates as Microsoft’s first business manager and served as Microsoft CEO from 2000 to 2014, has assembled a team of more than 30 people to work on USAFacts, including some of the same lawyers and accountants who produced Microsoft’s annual reports.
USAFacts partners include the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College.
Although he wants the facts to speak for themselves, Ballmer acknowledged that he was surprised by some of the data uncovered by the project, including improvements in crime, emissions, traffic fatalities, lifespan and infrastructure. He remains concerned by the federal deficit, and by the struggles of the country’s poorest citizens to realize the American dream — reinforcing the need for the type of philanthropy he and his wife are pursuing.
The website organizes 30 years of data from more than 70 local, state, and federal government agencies into a well-designed, centralized hub that its creators hope will give people a clearer picture of how the government makes and spends money.