Surprisingly few tech insights in Steve Ballmer's USAFacts data trove

Former Microsoft CEO's U.S. government spending watchdog let's you dive deep into oodles of financial data

Surprisingly few tech insights in Steve Ballmer's USAFacts data trove
Reuters/Mike Segar

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's USAFacts project, an ambitious and sometimes overwhelming repository of data about local to state to federal U.S. government spending and outcomes that was launched on Tax Day, is surprisingly light on technology-related data.

Not that Ballmer is obligated to spend his post-Microsoft life focused on technology —indeed, he's mainly been known for his purchase of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers in recent years — but given his background I expected that I might find more tech-related nuggets in this graphically-pleasing data trove that's been three years in the making. Interested in the possibilities for data journalism stories spun from USAFacts, I made an inquiry to the outfit's media relations contact and will update this post if I hear back from them with any clarification on possible additions of such techie numbers.

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All this is not to say there isn't some data that sheds light on the state of U.S. technology jobs, accessibility and such. Though given that the data is collected from government agencies such as the Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget, much of it is two or three years old — a lifetime in technology circles.

The most illuminating tech-related chart on the site, still shown as being in beta mode, is one that dives into technology ownership broken down by family and individual units using 2015 data (the sources of which are listed as coming soon). 

families digital USAFacts

Overall, 80% of American families or individuals own computers, with the bottom-most income sectors having as low as 55% to 62% ownership and the very highest 1% income-wise showing at 95% ownership.  Other interesting facts include that 4% of 146 million families only have landline telephone service and that nearly a third of the elderly have no internet access.

Searches on terms such as "software" and "cellular" came up empty, though a few results pop up when searching on terms such as "computers" and "technology".

Computers come up in data sets about jobs and employment. The average annual wage associated with computer and mathematical jobs in 2015 was $86,200, with chart and table views showing an increase from $81,400 in 2005 (Median salary data is also available). Data on the percentage of computer sciences and engineering jobs out of the entire job market end in 2010, so are pretty out of date.

USAFacts also has a bit of info on tech jobs within the federal government, though technology is lumped in with space research. The totals have actually fallen from 24,000 in 1980 to 17,736 in 2014.

The data in USAFacts is sliced, diced and presented in numerous ways, some more searchable than others. For a relatively quick overview of the data, USAFacts serves up several overall summaries, include a "10-K" report on the government. (Note that in addition to Ballmer, partners on USAFacts include the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Lynchburg College.)

Overall, it's an impressive start, thoughI look forward to more tech-related data being added as the project matures.

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