Busting 5 Myths About Open Data

Usually, when we find someone reluctant or unsure about Open Data, it’s because they’ve bought into one or another popular misperception.

Maybe they think it’s too expensive, or that no one really cares about Open Data, or that there are no solid reasons for investing in a data portal. We don’t know where these 5 myths came from, but here’s how we answer them:

1. Open Data is expensive and difficult. Sure, anything can be expensive and difficult. But Open Data doesn’t have to be. With today’s cloud-based platforms, an Open Data portal can be established without a big hardware investment, and there’s no reason to pay for thousands of development hours. By using an existing, off-the-shelf framework, a portal can go from concept to implementation in a matter of weeks.

2. There’s no return on investment. Where’s the ROI? Let us count the ways. If your measuring stick is increased civic engagement and greater transparency, it’s hard to argue there’s no ROI from Open Data. There’s measurable ROI in efficiency and cost savings in handling public records requests. And if economic development is what you seek, check out a recent McKinsey & Company study that found Open Data can unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion a year in economic value.

3. Nobody cares about my city’s data. Maybe datasets of 311 calls, animals in the public shelter or tree locations seem mundane to you, but somebody out there cares. It’s true that not every dataset will appeal to every constituent. However, you’ll be surprised by the ingenious uses your constituents and third-party application developers will find for your data.

4. Mapping is the only use for Open Data. Maps are fun, no doubt, but they’re only one way Open Data is becoming invaluable in public life. For example, Santa Clarita, Calif., is using an Open Data portal to encourage awareness and participation in elections. Citizens can follow election results in real time, viewing raw vote totals or totals by precinct. Palo Alto, Calif., provides visualizations of 311 call data so residents can track problems in their neighborhoods in 15 different ways. Uses for Open Data are limited only by the imagination.

5. Open Data is only for large government organizations. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Off-the-shelf, cloud-based platforms today offer a way to deliver the benefits of Open Data – transparency, civic engagement, greater efficiency, innovation and growth – that is comprehensive and scalable, yet simple and affordable. That’s why small and midsize cities fared so well recently in the Open Data Census published by Code for America, Sunlight Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Don’t believe the myths. Open Data today is for everyone.

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Gartner names Junar a Cool Vendor in Government

It’s Cool to be Cool, But Open Data Results Mean Even More

According to the Urban Dictionary, “cool” is “the best way to say something is neat-o, awesome, or swell.”

Screen shot 2014-06-05 at 11.36.32 AMAccording to the analysts at Gartner, “cool vendors” are up-and-coming companies with technology that is:

– Innovative – It enables users to do things they couldn’t do before.

– Impactful – It has or will have a business impact; it’s not just ‘technology for the sake of technology.’

– Intriguing – It has caught Gartner’s interest or curiosity during the past six months or so. Continue reading

The National Civic Day of Hacking is May 31-June 1, 2014.

National Day of Civic Hacking is a Big Deal for Open Data

For data geeks across America, this weekend is like the Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one: Saturday and Sunday is the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking. And although you won’t find it on your holiday calendar (maybe in the future?) and there will be no fireworks, National Day of Civic Hacking is important to anyone who cares about Open Data and about improving government with collaborative innovation. Continue reading

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act for short, requires federal agencies to follow a standardized format for spending reports and to make more specific information available.

Historic Open Data Bill Becomes Law of the Land

By our count, President Obama has signed nearly three-dozen bills into law already this year. One of them flew mostly under the national news radar, but it has the potential to be a major milestone for open governance and transparency.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act for short, requires federal agencies to follow a standardized format for spending reports and to make more specific information available via the U.S. government’s budget site. Continue reading

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Understanding Motivations for Your Open Data Program

Many governments and NGOs might be holding back from Open Data out of concerns of complexities, costs, manpower requirements or internal resistance.

For those folks, here’s some great news: Getting started with Open Data doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming or expensive. With today’s cloud-based platforms, it’s possible to launch a project quickly and without great expense.

The secret is to be agile and iterative. Start small and build out from there, following the path of least resistance along the way.

Over the next month or so, we’ll publish several excerpts from our new eBook, titled  “A Practical Approach to Open Data Implementation.” If you like it, we hope you’ll download the whole thing. It’s free, and you’ll find it’s not full of sales pitches, just good, practical advice. Continue reading

The Denver brigade of Code for America recently set up a simple way to save the lives of abandoned or unwanted dogs by harnessing just one of the 180 datasets currently online in the city. It’s a great example of the simple-but-awesome power of making data actionable.

Open Data impacts all constituents, including Dogs!

Open Data has gone to the dogs. No kidding.

The Denver brigade of Code for America recently set up a simple way to save the lives of abandoned or unwanted dogs by harnessing just one of the 180 datasets currently online in the city. It’s a great example of the simple-but-awesome power of making data actionable.  Continue reading

This week I gave a talk about Open Data to a group of master’s students at UPEACE. They returned the favor by giving me great questions and comments as well as a shot optimism for the future and a reminder that Open Data truly is a worldwide movement with unlimited potential.

UPEACE Students Reminded Me: Open Data is Worldwide

This week I gave a talk about Open Data to a group of master’s students at UPEACE. They returned the favor by giving me great questions and comments as well as a shot optimism for the future and a reminder that Open Data truly is a worldwide movement with unlimited potential. Continue reading

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.

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

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.

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!

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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.

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