‘Open data’ initiative meeting public’s demand for additional government information
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
The world is currently fascinated by all kinds of applications. In fact, new apps for our phones, iPads, computers and personal data appliances are all the rage.
And, in this environment, even government data has become “sexy.” Public officials cannot keep up with the demand for information and many have wisely recognized the need to interest private sector firms in the development of apps that work with government databases.
One way in which officials are striving to meet data demands is by approving projects related to “open data” initiatives. Government executives hope to spur private sector innovation. The goal is to allow access to non-confidential data collected and maintained by public entities in the hope that entrepreneurs will find better ways to disseminate the data.
The benefits of a transparency are clear: access to vital information, increased trust in government and greater accountability due to oversight. Although transparent government is not a new concept, public leaders have been pushed to be more focused. And, they are allowing greater access to thousands of government databases.
Federal, state and local governments are using technology to create user-friendly applications that compile data, allow access and also ensure quality and security. Government sites are also beginning to allow the public to interact with the data housed there and many sites promote and encourage the creation of user-friendly applications. The hope is that data maintained and collected by government entities can be utilized and revolutionized by the private sector.
- Recently the federal government initiative, Data.gov, celebrated its third anniversary. This Web site enables access to both raw datasets and government applications, while allowing access and permission to develop and distribute applications from the database. Data.gov reports that 34 states, 15 cities and 172 agencies and sub-agencies and 30 international countries have made the move to open data.
- The city of New York conducts an annual competition, BigApps, which calls on developers to create applications with city data. The private sector-generated applications range from tracking the types of trees within the city to planning travel based on the modes of transportation available. The growing availability of open data creates a more responsive government while providing opportunities for private sector firms.
- Public health officials are also taking advantage of the open data movement. The federal program Health Data Initiative and U.S. Department of Health recently hosted the 2012 Health Datapalooza. The event brought together public sector officials and health and IT leaders. The Health Datapalooza served as an exhibit for the future technology of health IT and showcased how the government’s open data initiatives drive innovation.
As public officials and corporate leaders begin to partner on initiatives such as this, great results are projected. Government cannot continue to meet public demands for data without the involvement of private sector innovation.