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Author's profile photo Marlyn Zelkowitz

Is the Next Evolution of Government Transparency Open Data?

By now you have probably heard about Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) and how they are profoundly changing education and how we learn.  Open Data, embraced today by governments around the world, allows data to be freely used, re-used, and distributed by anyone, as long as the source is attributed. The data needs to be standardized, machine readable and should also be inter-operable. That sounds like a tall order. But it is happening – and the benefits extend way beyond the initial focus on public spending.

I recently had the chance to learn about how the US Federal Government is implementing open data at the DATA Act Summit in Washington, D.C. At this conference, US Government and private sector participants discussed implementation the Data Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-01), which will make Federal spending data more accessible, searchable, and reliable. Currently, the US Treasury and Office of Management and Budget are creating data standards aimed to improve the quality of US Federal spending data.  Proposed standards are published on Federal Spending Transparency GitHub​, where public and private sector comments are considered and may be incorporated into the final data standards.

So why are governments embracing this Herculean effort to open data? Governments see open data as an important tool for policymaking and part of the digital transformation of government. Public sector organizations expect open data to:

  • help make public services more efficient;
  • spur innovation and economic growth through opportunities for businesses and startups to build new services;
  • offer stakeholders insights into how government works, which will enhance both public trust and citizen engagement; and
  • allow government and communities to keep track of local spending and performance.

Some concrete examples demonstrate the impact of open data. Publishing health care data on disease outbreaks allows doctors and scientists to isolate the source of an outbreak. Publication of mortality rates of cardiac surgery led to improved care after Britain’s leading cardiac surgeon persuaded his fellow physicians to open the data. As a consequence, best practices were identified and spread, saving lives.

Economic opportunities may also open up. Consider, for example, the global positioning system (GPS). Initially developed for defense use, GPS has improved navigation and transportation for many civilians around the world.

Open data is key to a transparent, accountable, participatory, and collaborative open government. By breaking down silos and making information available, we gain insights and can deliver value to the public.

What are you seeing in your country?

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      Author's profile photo Marlyn Zelkowitz
      Marlyn Zelkowitz
      Blog Post Author

      Interesting article and video on State of Connecticut and Open Data recently posted on NextGov.

      And also a thoughtful blog by Socrata on Data as a Utility