Qu

by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (https://cfpb.github.io/qu/)

Qu is an open source data platform created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to easily serve large sets of data. It was originally created to serve data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act but it isn’t just for HMDA; it’s a free and open source platform that anyone can use to build their own data APIs.

It lets users query complex data, combine it with other data, and summarize that data. Instead of building a single-purpose application, the CFPB built a reusable, extensible platform that can be used by any organization to create a REST API for large amounts of information, allowing the public to get the raw information or create aggregations for their own use. Qu includes an ETL pipeline for ingesting data and a Socrata Open Data API-inspired REST interface. Qu was created with Clojure, JavaScript, and MongoDB by a team of developers, UI designers, and system engineers.

Why they won

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a new Federal Bureau that’s only five years old. One of its jobs is to help people take more control over their economic lives, and the result of that job is a desire to make it easier for citizens to explore public data on the web.

What kind of data? In this case, the millions of mortgage application records collected by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The point of the Act is to make sure that there isn’t a credit shortage affecting people living in urban neighborhoods - but it’s only effective if people look at the data to find out where the shortages are.

So when the Bureau went looking for the right tool to make that, they were left feeling a little like Goldilocks. Some were too small. Others were too big. Nothing was just right for making ten to a hundred million records available easily.

So, as a twenty first century government agency, the Bureau set about building Qu, an open source data platform that meets their needs (which is also, you guessed it, hosted on Github). Qu lets users query complex data, combine it with other data and then summarize it.

The team that built Qu is not a small startup in silicon valley. CFPB is a government entity with immense tech talent building software the way startups and large tech companies create products: quickly and iteratively, based on user needs. Qu is one example of the great products that can definitely be built and shared with citizens from inside government.

What’s great about Qu is the Bureau’s approach. Instead of just building a single purpose tool, they built something better for all of us. Easy to deploy and providing access through standard APIs, Qu isn’t just yet another data publishing tool, it’s a platform for building data APIs.