Small and Midsize Cities Fare Well in Open Data Census

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, it’s a competitive world, and people do love rankings.

The groups Code for America, Sunlight Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation have published an Open Data Census that ranks 36 U.S. cities according to how many civic datasets they’ve opened to the public.

The study takes into account dozens of possible datasets, from crime data to 311 calls to restaurant inspections to GIS data. The results can be sorted by score (top scorer San Francisco at 1570 all the way to three cities at 0) or alphabetically, and viewers can take a deep dive into information on all 36 cities.

The ranking is actually a fascinating dataset in and of itself, especially for an avowed data geek like me.

What strikes me most, though, is the fact that many of the governments ranking well on the list are small and midsize cities. Continue reading

Does Open Data Improve Governance? Of Course!

I was honored recently with the chance to be a guest blogger over at the Sunlight Foundation’s site. Last week, they posted my piece, in which I answer the question, “Does open data improve governance?”

My answer: Of course! I urge you to check out the blog, and the rest of the Sunlight Foundation site. We are still in the nascent stages of the Open Data Movement, and time will tell the full extent of transparency’s effect on democracies around the world. But, as I wrote, there already are plenty of examples that show how open data works, not just to promote better government but also to increase efficiencies, boost civic engagement and foster economic development.

One interesting, and encouraging, trend I’ve noticed is that smaller municipalities are starting to get into the swing of open data. It’s not just the big dogs anymore.

They’re finding that, with the help of practical Open Data Platforms such as Junar, making datasets available to the public is easier and quicker than they realized. Open Data doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

As more governments open up datasets, I expect we’ll continue to find that, yes, open data does improve governance – among many other things.

Have a great week!

Economic Benefits of Open Data Are Getting Harder to Ignore

The goals of Open Data can sometimes appear amorphous and even touchy-feely, with talk consistently centered on “doing the right thing” and “giving the people access to information they already own.”

Certainly, those are noble and important goals – and, rightly, the first imperatives of Open Data, in my view. And, the truth is, until we can draw a straight line from Open Data to concrete economic results, altruistic goals such as “proactive transparency” and “constituent engagement” will continue to serve very well, indeed.

However, many of those concrete economic results are starting to become obvious and provable, thanks in part to non-profit research being conducted at New York University. Continue reading

Panel Features Exciting Apps, All Made Possible by Open Data

I’ve just finished a great event in San Francisco, hosted by the League of California Cities, that left me even more excited about the power of citizen engagement to improve life in communities — and the pivotal role that Open Data plays in promoting that engagement.

The conference was packed with truly engaged participants, many of them city planning commissioners and staff who asked lots of good questions on how to use emerging technologies for greater citizen engagement. Continue reading

Our WWW is All Grown Up. Through Open Data, It Can Reach Its Potential

There was much hoopla and many retrospectives recently when the World Wide Web turned 25.

Yes, despite all of the disrupted industries and distracted family members at the dinner table (not to mention flame-wars, malware and wasted work hours), we love the web and all the benefits – even freedoms, in some parts of the world – it has made possible.

Having said that, now that the web is all grown up (If it were human, it’d be in graduate school or starting a family by now!), it’s time for it to evolve from a web of documents to a web of meaningful data.  Continue reading

Why Open Data? McKinsey Counted Up to 5 Trillion Reasons

People spend a lot of time addressing the valid, altruistic reasons for making the people’s data freely available and easily accessible in government. As California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in his book, Citizenville, “opening up government data is just the right thing to do.”

Writes Newsom: “We paid for it. We own it. We have a right to it.” (Which reminds us: Did you know it’s national Sunshine Week?)

But there also are financial reasons, both in the public and private sectors, to be interested in Open Data.

A McKinsey & Company study that came out last fall found that Open Data has the potential to unlock in the neighborhood of $3 trillion to $5 trillion in economic value annually in seven domain areas:  Continue reading

10 Principles to Ensure Open Data in Your Community

The cause for open government has been around for a long time, but the modern movement toward freely available, unrestricted, modifiable public data – Open Data – in the United States really started on two December days in 2007.

Thirty members of the Open Government Working Group – academics from Stanford and Berkeley, some of the brightest legal minds in the nation, representatives of Internet heavyweights Google and Yahoo and other others – gathered in Sebastopol, Calif., about an hour north of San Francisco.

Their work, led by Carl Malamud of the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org and Tim O’Reilly, resulted in a set of eight principles of open government data. The Sunlight Foundation has since updated and expanded the list to 10 principles.  Continue reading


International Open Data Day 2014 Declared a Big Success

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote here about International Open Data Day, when people around the world celebrate public information and, more importantly, do something useful with data.

Organizers of the movement, led by the Open Knowledge Foundation, reported a resounding success, with hackathon events held in nearly 200 locations and involving thousands of people around the world. They scraped data, made visualizations and built prototypes for new apps. Pretty cool stuff!

Now, the results are starting to trickle in from the hackathons, and I thought we’d look at some of the tangible results already coming out.  Continue reading

Palo Alto Proclaims ‘Open Data by Default’

Jonathan Reichental is not your father’s cloistered bureaucrat. The chief information officer in Palo Alto, Calif., is a sought-after speaker, an active blogger and, for 20 years, a tireless advocate for government transparency and the public’s right to easily access information.

He leads the Open Data push in Palo Alto, which might be the most avidly open local government in America. How open, you ask? Just a few weeks ago, the mayor and city council decreed “Open Data by Default.”

The proclamation reaffirmed Reichental’s 2-year-old drive to make the public’s information freely available, usable and sharable in the cause of making the community better and government more transparent and accountable. Continue reading

Saturday is a Big Day for Open Data – and Your Community

This Saturday is a big, big holiday for smart people everywhere who are interested in making the world a better place.

No, we don’t mean World Thinking Day, although we have nothing against it.

We mean that Saturday is International Open Data Day, a time for people around the world to gather and celebrate the public’s information by encouraging the adoption of open data policies by governments everywhere. Continue reading