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Building a virus relief spending tracker

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque-based data analytics firm RS21 is building the data mining engine that will power up a new website to allow anyone to easily track all government spending on COVID-19 relief.

The Washington, D.C.-based Project on Government Oversight, or POGO, announced plans in April to launch a COVID-19 relief spending tracker and accountability project to provide public transparency on how the $2.7 trillion that the federal government has so far authorized is actually distributed. POGO has since partnered with RS21 to build the data analytics foundation for the website, and with digital design agency FuseLab Creative to construct an easy-to-use public interface.

“We’re the data science experts on the project,” RS21 president and CEO Charles Rath told the Journal. “We do all the data mining, analyzing and information crunching for the project. FuseLab will ensure that all the results from tracking and analysis of spending is easy to digest by everyone.”

POGO has nearly 40 years working on government oversight, said Executive Director Danielle Brian. It’s built many spending trackers in the past that the government itself ended up adopting.

“With this tracker, we hope to provide a much needed window into the several trillion dollars the government is spending to address the pandemic and aid those working to hold our government accountable,” Brian said in a statement.

Relief money is flowing through numerous government agencies for many different programs, so the spending tracker must rapidly collate information from a multitude of databases.

“It’s a challenge to mine all that data, aggregate it, analyze it and make it available in an easy-to-use visual format for the average citizen to understand what’s going on,” Rath said. “But once it’s built, the website will be able to slice and dice all that information in different ways. It will be easy for users to follow all the bread crumbs once it’s online.”

The tracker will go live in October.

RS21, which launched in 2014, specializes in packaging mounds of information into easily understandable, web-based platforms for public and private customers. It’s currently managing 23 active projects, Rath said.

The company placed No. 485 this month on Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies after growing its revenue 947% from 2016-2019.

Fast Company also ranked RS21 as No. 43 in July on its list of 100 best workplaces for innovators.

The company employs about 60 people at a 4,700-square-foot space Downtown, and at a satellite office in Washington, D.C. It expects to reach 75 employees by December.

It initiated an equity incentive program in July to allow all RS21 employees to buy stock in the company.

“We’re offering opportunities for our employees to share in our success,” Rath said.

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