What is the Value Proposition of Open Government Data?

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Megan Megan 3 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #115043
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    On Tuesday, I’ll be speaking on a panel at the first International Data Summit in Washington, D.C. The topic of our panel is the same as the title for this discussion. Before I pull on my suit and head for the microphone, I’d like to hear what’s on your mind.

    What do you think?

    What are the best resources to read?

    Which countries, states or cities are leading the way in open government data? What does that mean?

    How do you measure success in this space?

    What are the barriers to open government data for agencies, municipalities and states?

  • #115089
    Avatar of Megan
    Megan
    Participant

    I’m not sure about these questions, but would love it if you could promote the notion of “mashups”. The value-add from my perspective is that we are beginning to break down silos between countries, between Agencies, etc.

    So for example, at NASA what could we do if we mashed-up the Google patent data with data about NASA’s coolest technology innovations over the years? We generally focus on our own data – Google Moon, Google Mars, WWW Telescope, etc, but what new applications could make the whole process of getting a patent easier and more accessible?

    Would also like to get the OpenData community to start to think about high-value data sets and how to promote these. Example: patent data and “the law” are two datasets referenced in the Constitution, and should be readily available in every country.

  • #115087
    Avatar of GovLoop
    GovLoop
    Keymaster

    May be out of date but here’s our list of open data cities/state/countreis – http://data.govloop.com/dataset/List-of-City-wide-Data-sites/agy9-zcn8

    Here’s a good article on measuring value of open data

    Socrata has provided some good though leadership in the area.
    Also folks like yourself, Andrew Hoppin, Tim O’Reilly, Vivek, and others

    I’d measure success in a few ways:
    -Quantiative – # of datasets, # of downloads, # of applications built, et
    -Qualitative – stories of how improved internal processes, helped citizens, helped create businesses, etc

    I’d look at how Twitter, Yelp, Facebook measures the success of API

    I also think Chris Dixon’s description of why they have a Hunch API makes a lot of sense – one is that it is just business development 2.0. Makes it a lot easier and saves a lot of time. For years, government has given out data – it just comes in the form of FOIA and takes a lot of time and effort.
    http://cdixon.org/2010/08/28/good-bizdev-cannabilizies-itself/

  • #115085

    Some ideas to get the conversation flowing:

    # of datasets made available by an agency
    # of datasets converted to mash-ups or other useful visualizations
    Increase in levels of citizen satisfaction/trust in gov’t services (using Foresee Survey or similar(
    # of datasets made available that lead to revelations by viewers
    # of datasets made available that lead to innovative apps, tools and services by developers
    # of datasets that invite citizen participation in the process of correcting and/or enhancing accuracy

    I could come up with a few more…but want to see what this sparks!

    All Open Gov Plans here:
    http://data.govloop.com/Government/List-of-Open-Gov-Plans/x46u-4d2e

    Please note also that we are working on a project to take this list into even greater detail…more soon!

  • #115083
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Thank you, Megan. Mashups will definitely be part of the conversation, particularly since the Data.gov team has been prominently featuring several on the site, and I’m grateful for the specific examples.

    WIth respect to patent data, it’s been interesting to watch the reaction to Google getting a patent database online. There’s a long way to go before Malamud’s vision for Law.gov is realized – thank you for that example as well.

  • #115081
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Thank you, Steve! Very helpful. Bill Eggers was looking at that exact list this week. I’m hoping you’ll have it updated by Monday; safe bet to expect a surge of interest.

  • #115079
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Great spark, Andy. Thank you!

  • #115077
    Avatar of GovLoop
    GovLoop
    Keymaster

    Added Catlunya just now and a couple Friday too.

    Let me know if now of any off hand missing…will research more manana too

  • #115075
    Avatar of Dan Morgan
    Dan Morgan
    Participant

    There are multiple forces at play here, and they need to be broken down so agencies can more effectively address the “open data” problem. Some agencies have, for a long time, been releasing data. The comparatively utility of those releases is diminished given the explosion of analytical capabilities available to the average citizen. Agencies are good stewards of outdated data release practices. Check out things like TaxStats (http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/) or the National Bridge Inventory (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/nbi/ascii.cfm). There’s a wealth of information waiting to be unlocked in those data sets – but we’re releasing them the same way we have been for years – without any sort of acknowledgment of the changes in technology.

    For agencies to make their data useful, they’re going to have to invest in a “both-and” approach. Some people rely on their regular releases (economists and industry analysts go by information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics). If we want to empower people, we have to keep those practices alive while nurturing emerging data analysis practices. Then there’s what people could learn from some of the more gigantic data sets out there, like the National Household Travel Survey (http://nhts.ornl.gov/download.shtml).

    For these reasons, I don’t believe in quantitative metrics like how many data sets get released. Agencies that are in the business of releasing data need to baseline their current use before they release them to data.gov or hold some competition around their data. But if their data release practices are less-than-useful to the app developer community, their data is going to get copied to a place and converted into something an app developer can use. We can’t measure those things.

  • #115073
    Avatar of Daniel Hudson
    Daniel Hudson
    Participant

    Its great to see all the creative work at http://data.gov including the intuitive navigation for reviewing data sets and data visualization examples. The Value Proposition of Open Government Data should include building a stronger community around this space. Stories about why and how people use Open Government Data may have more impact than measuring number of views or downloads. The meaning of the data and reasons for empty or cryptic fields could be crowdsourced to the community. A small group of community managers could focus on keeping the community healthy.

    Adding value to Open Government Data can be done with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that extend the value of these data sets. Twitter and Facebook experienced explosive growth after creating and releasing their APIs. These APIs could be used to create “sharable objects” that can be shared, embeded, & mashed up across multiple environments and devices. We can start with simple standard formats before we get into things like SPARQL and RDF. The World Wide Web is already packed with server-side and client-side tools to read and manipulate RSS. We also see data sets in RSS formats at http://data.gov This is one simple way of putting government data into standard sharable formats. Many of the other data sets could be transformed from their raw xml format to standard RSS formats.

    What if Open Government Data was available in YQL?
    Taking the data to the people seems like a good goal. The Yahoo! Query Language is an expressive SQL-like language that lets you query, filter, and join data across Web services. http://developer.yahoo.com/yql/

    What if Data.gov Had a Real App Store?
    A Real App Store for Open Government Data that supported the collaborative spirit of adding value to Government Data would be great hosted in a space like http://data.gov This Platform as a Service (PaaS) would support serving apps, mashups, and Software as a Service (SaaS) across the federated space. I believe we would see exponential growth in the value of government data with something like JackBe’s Presto powering the Government App Store.

  • #115071
    Avatar of Brand Niemann
    Brand Niemann
    Participant

    What do you think?
    http://www.semanticuniverse.com/articles-put-your-desktop-cloud-support-open-government-directive-and-datagovsemantic.html

    What are the best resources to read?
    http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/06/what-is-data-science.html

    Which countries, states or cities are leading the way in open government data? What does that mean?
    See at http://semanticommunity.net/ first Spotfire: Build Data Catalogs in the Cloud in Support of Data.gov and EPA’s Strategic Data Action Plan and the next Spotfire: Build Your Own Data.gov Mashup-of-Mashups Catalog (in process)

    How do you measure success in this space?
    http://inkdroid.org/journal/2010/06/04/the-5-stars-of-open-linked-data/

    What are the barriers to open government data for agencies, municipalities and states?
    Some data must be downloaded and unzipped before it can be accessed which does not lend itself to dynamic mashups (reuse) and interoperability with other catalogs.
    Some data itself is essentially a brute-force serialization of data tables into XML and RDF without any metadata and is very difficult to use.

  • #115069
    Avatar of GovLoop
    GovLoop
    Keymaster

    I think this is a good point that is not mentioned enough.

    Goverment is HUGE with tons of different agencies. A lot of government agencies have tons of experience with making data public for years – think places like Census data which are very good at liasoning with academics/researchers/companies to give out useful Census data in key formats. Also places like Bureau of Labor Statistics with labor data.

    There are lots of lessons from agencies there. Specifically, these agencies have spent lots of time and effort figuring out what people want from their data, in what format, and in what frequency. Also, people are usually looking for specific data not data generally.

  • #115067
    Avatar of Veronica Wendt
    Veronica Wendt
    Participant

    I like the point that Daniel Hudson makes about “building a stronger community around this space.” It addresses two points that my students (mostly gov civilians) bring up in our Web-Enabled Government class at NDU:

    1) Data.gov seems like it has the approach of “if you build it, they will come.” Is that really true?

    2) Who is/are the community/communities that use the open data and what has fundamentally changed by publishing the data to this space, in this format, and for individual/mass consumption?

    I think Daniel H’s point fits in with #1 above, along with Dan Morgan’s observation that multiple forces are at play.

    Regarding #2, I think that identifying individuals and communities at play is critical here. Specifically, on the individual side, I would say that the population roughly falls into one of the following categories:

    A) Doesn’t know about data.gov

    B) Does know about data.gov and doesn’t care

    C) Does know about data.gov, cares, but doesn’t know how to engage

    D) Does know about data.gov, cares, and engages

    I think our conversations on data.gov have centered around the idea that most of the community falls into the “D” category, when we should be addressing all aspects of A, C & D.

    So where does that leave us on the value proposition? I think it is a combination of education, collaboration, and industry experimentation to create value to a specific individual, a community, a set of communities, or some other variation/combination/subset of the population. I am sure there are other pieces at play, as well. Thanks for posting the questions and creating this dialogue.

  • #115065
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Very thoughtful take – thank you.

  • #115063
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Thank you for the links and analysis.

  • #115061
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    I’m sure Mike appreciates the shoutout – thank you for the comment!

  • #115059
    Avatar of Alexander B. Howard
    Alexander B. Howard
    Participant

    Great questions, food for thought. Thank you!

  • #115057
    Avatar of Brand Niemann
    Brand Niemann
    Participant
  • #115055
    Avatar of Inas Hafez
    Inas Hafez
    Participant
  • #115053
    Avatar of Daniel Hudson
    Daniel Hudson
    Participant

    You’re Welcome! Good luck with the International Data Summit in Washington, D.C tomorrow. I’m looking to hearing more about this and the results of your discussions.

  • #115051
    Avatar of Helen Stewart
    Helen Stewart
    Participant

    First of all, has Open Government Data been clearly defined Nationally? What does it really mean? I note in our agencies it means different types of information exchanges that appear to fit each organizations agenda? Is there a Policy Governing Document on what the Open Government is? I thought that the Government primarily used this Openness for accountability to the public, to keep the public informed on progress, successes, and honest reporting on use of tax dollars; the need for transparency in business practice, e.g., such as honest reporting on agency program and mission progress (cost, benefit, and risk). Proof of good business decisions with transparent and ethical procurement processes to avoid conflict of interests.

    Today, there is an appearance of pressure on the government to open more information on sharing even “state-of-the-art” on technological and methodological national advancements in addition to the general publicly available science returns? What many in the government forget, is that much of the information on the “state-of-the-art” is Corporate proprietary or is considered sensitive to National Security. Much of this Open Government is obscure and confusing to many on whether this means to also mash together state-of-the-art, with the rest? Couldn’t the obscurity open more vulnerability with ‘sensitive information transfer’? Don’t we also have to be alert to how Foreign competitors can take advantage of this area of Open Gov. communications. There definitely is a cloud of confusion in the concept of Open Source / Open Government.

    Doesn’t our Nation need a Clearer Statement and Federal Policy on what Open Government is?

  • #115049
    Avatar of Terri Jones
    Terri Jones
    Participant

    The value proposition is that the collective investment in collecting and preserving this data can maximized and extended when data is equally available for agencies to use where appropriate. Further, time spent “re-collecting” data could better be spent creating policy and strategy to use the data to make better government decisions and programs.

    Typically, the funding streams that support data collection are too narrow to encourage sharing and it may be that the collection process is limited by the funding silo. Because funders don’t often support proactive collection or data that is wider than their narrow concerns, this forms the first barrier for agencies that have a broader vision. Security remains a barrier when some feel that data cannot or should not be shared but I am sure that more sharing could take place if the funding silos did not exist.

  • #115047
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

    At an abstract level, all of the stuff discussed here sounds wonderful. At the shop floor level, I can tell you that an important chunk of my own job is “inferential prophylaxis”: preparing data for consumption by end-users who are at high risk of misusing the data because they don’t understand enough about it. And believe me, there are a LOT of people out there like that.

    I’m not being an analytic snob. I’m merely recognizing that many folks who have motives and authorization to use the data posted are not necessarily trained in how to work with it, and those who post it do not necessarily convey in the most detailed and comprehensible of terms just how that data was acquired and what the caveats are for its use.

    Instead of saving time, effort, and resources by allowing others to work with the data instead of taking on the burden yourself, you can end up spending the same, or even more, time defusing contentious situations and panic on the part of stakeholders who have the access but not the chops or insight.

    I work in central HR, and while the HR people are good folk, quantitative training is often not part of their background. Despite this, they are tasked with taking such data and generating reports. And all too often they get it wrong.

    I can imagine that there are other areas where this is much less of a problem, and my concerns are unjustified. I’m just saying that open data is not, by itself, any sort of general panacea. There are some streets you can tell your kids to look both ways and cross on their own, and some where you need to hold their hand and walk them across if you want them to make it alive.

  • #115045

    Update: We have now created several datasets that sort out the Open Government Projects by agency:

    http://data.govloop.com/browse?q=List%20of%20Open%20Government%20Pr

    Now what do we do with it?

    Here’s one way we visualized it:

    http://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/how-many-open-gov-projects-are

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