Open data for open lands

at Radar: “President Obama’s well-publicized national open data policy (pdf) makes it clear that government data is a valuable public resource for which the government should be making efforts to maximize access and use. This policy was based on lessons from previous government open data success stories, such as weather data and GPS, which form the basis for countless commercial services that we take for granted today and that deliver enormous value to society. (You can see an impressive list of companies reliant on open government data via GovLab’s Open Data 500 project.)
Based on this open data policy, I’ve been encouraging entrepreneurs to invest their time and ingenuity to explore entrepreneurial opportunities based on government data. I’ve even invested (through O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures) in one such start-up, Hipcamp, which provides user-friendly interfaces to making reservations at national and state parks.
A better system is sorely needed. The current reservation system, managed by the Active Network / Reserve America is clunky and almost unusable. Hipcamp changes all that, making it a breeze to reserve camping spots.
But now this is under threat. Active Network / Reserve America’s 10-year contract is up for renewal, and the Department of the Interior had promised an RFP for a new contract that conformed with the open data mandate. Ideally, that RFP would require an API so that independent companies could provide alternate interfaces, just like travel sites provide booking interfaces for air travel, hotels, and more. That explosion of consumer convenience should be happening for customers of our nation’s parks as well, don’t you think?…”