Connecting US Government Documents With Yewno

By Ryan D. Mayfield, Product Manager at Yewno

Free and open information is only useful if it is accessible and understandable. The U.S. Federal Government is accountable to its citizens through election, bound by checks and balances, and the vast majority of its activities are documented online. Yet this $4-trillion-per-year behemoth sprawls across thousands of departments, agencies, and commissions. The impacts of decisions ripple across budget years and offices, while countless administrative bodies have authority on overlapping parts of our lives. Each has a range of tools, power, objectives, and accountability. Their information is fragmented across millions of websites and reports, circulated in complex legislative language, and confused by layers of missing context.

Yewno is built on the idea that understanding is fundamentally linked to context. The human brain considers events or organizations differently, depending on the filter. Complex ideas are easier to understand when their components are broken open for analysis. By engaging with concepts in relation to their surroundings, Yewno helps users deepen their understanding of ideas that they already know while finding new paths to explore. These tools guide high school students as they understand interwoven concepts in their physics class, and support university researchers as they consider challenges at the intersection of workforce development and cybersecurity.

Government documentation is ripe for this approach. Yewno thrives on interconnecting ideas and discovering unexpected relationships. The ability to discover connections and unearth fundamental building blocks will help users engage with government resources through the topics they hold most dear, and then use the system to explore. Whether it’s developing the advanced manufacturing industry or implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, most topics cut across wide swathes of the government and are best understood through a wide range of lenses.

Current means of information discovery struggle to understand government content. Keyword search struggles: numerous federal offices have overlapping names, and naming legislation is more of a political than a descriptive act. Connections between chains of sub-offices are severed by broken web links and entities that no longer exist. These challenges, emerging from the confluence of nearly two-and-a-half centuries of American governance and the rapid rise of the internet, inhibit scholars and citizens alike.

Therefore, we are ingesting government documents, uniting and organizing this currently fragmented and overwhelming resource. We have already absorbed millions of scholarly works on socio-political-economic topics, meaning that our system can understand virtually all foundational government concepts. Next, we will focus on information that has a broad impact on citizens across the country and around the world: documents like the Federal Register and Congressional Report, which chronicle the thousands of actions happening every day across the Executive and Legislative Branches. We will then expand across the government to reports, public statements, transcripts, laws, websites, and more. Our goal is to harness the contextual power of Yewno to develop the most accessible and comprehensive resource of government information, supporting the next generation of scholarship and political awareness.

Jun Ge