I recently attended the International Open Government Data Conference (IOGDC) in D.C. During a session, one of the panelists asked for a show of hands to count the types of event participants in the room. Half of the responses were government institutions researching open data solutions. The other half included a few open data solution providers (like Junar), World Bank research groups, and representatives from NGOs, multilaterals, and associations. It was definitely a good indicator of the growing open government movement and how both the public and private sectors are looking to an open data framework to improve transparency, collaboration, and innovation.
I’ll start off with my observations about the different types of event participants and then conclude with my perspectives on the event.
Governments have been toying with the idea of open data for several years, ever since the space was introduced. Every few months, we hear about some municipality who is launching an open data project. But for the most part, it really hasn’t been a mandatory project for most. However, the transition from “Freedom of Information Act” (and other similar Acts) to “Open Government” is finally happening. Access to information and mandates have definitely helped to get organizations down the right path, but for many the next step is how to easily and quickly open this data, and we are only a short time away from that tipping point. Governments are motivated by four main drivers:
- Meet Open Data legislative requirements
- Make data more accessible
- Empower citizens to unlock online resources
- Allow others to programmatically access the data
NGOs, Multilaterals & Associations
The next group benefitting from the open government movement are NGOs, multilaterals, and associations for many reasons, from improving governance and accountability and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of projects and programs to adhering to mandates and public disclosure requirements. They are motivated to increase openness and accountability globally to easily share knowledge and impact data. Their valuable data can serve different constituents of society and many have made Open Data a strategic pillar for their 2012-2013 plans based on the following key initiatives:
- Share valuable data that can help humanity and society
- Visualize impact reports and increase fundraising revenue
- Collaborate and inspire more innovation
One of the best keynotes at the show was delivered by Dr. Jim Young Kim, President of the World Bank. When sharing his views on Open Data, he expressed deep passion about Open Data from his personal experience with his children to working with numerous underprivileged communities. I think this is a good example of the opinions of many World Bank employees and research groups and how they are working hard to both lead and support the cause. Besides advising governments on open data initiatives and driving confidence in investors and households, the World Bank is also looking at new knowledge tools, platforms, and ways to improve relationships between governments and citizens through opening data.
Open Data Solution Providers
Then there are the Open Data solution platforms. My observations are that they generally fall into two main categories. First, the more established players who already offer an end-to-end open data platform. Second, the players looking to morph into an external platform solution or partial solution. They all provide different flavors and degrees to opening data, but all work together to help move the open government movement forward by providing great solutions and expertise.
Thoughts on IOGDC
It was a great event to share ideas, opinions, and perspectives from varying viewpoints. How to open data quickly became the hot topic, resulting in many conversations and questions about strategies for opening data. One of my friends from a large government institution put it best when he said, “I came here to find out about the Open Government movement, and I’m leaving with an urgency to open data, the right know-how to do it, and a sense of comradery that we’re all in this together.”
At Junar we had the foresight to see this situation coming a few years ago and therefore made the decision to focus the company on one distinct business model. At the time the market was not ready for a cloud-based open data platform, but our well-planned strategy is playing out very well in the market today. Open Data must and will happen, and we are grateful to #IOGDC and data evangelist Tariq Kokhar for hosting the perfect venue to share lessons learned, stimulate new ideas, and demonstrate the power of democratizing data.
Co-founder & CEO, Junar