Want to know about a natural disaster before the hurricane hits? Or when a major water main has broken in your city, making it impossible to drive your usual commute? With open data, this is a reality. The open data revolution literally puts information at your fingertips.
On Wednesday’s special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER LIVE, we discussed the importance of open data, current open data success stories, and the future of open data in the government.
Christopher Dorobek spoke with two experts from the open data field:
- Brian Gyrth, Senior Product Manager, Accela for CivicData.com
- Hudson Hollister, Executive Director, Data Transparency Coalition
As more industries are joining the fight for open data, governmental organizations at the local, state and federal levels have become more interested in utilizing open data. Not only does open data benefit citizens, but it also benefits government workers dealing with intra and interagency communication.
“It’s more than just about transparency,” said Gyrth. “We are looking at a particular change in how big data will affect how government interacts with private industry. There needs to be a bridge between citizens and the government.”
Today’s Open Data Movement
In May of this year, President Obama signed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which is the nation’s first federal legislative mandate for data transparency.
“It’s about two steps: the first step is standardization, and the second step is to publish,” said Hudson. “These standards will be around May 9th of 2015.”
We can already see the positive effects of the open data trend all over the U.S. In Chicago, Illinois, a civic organization known as Smart Chicago is bettering the lives of the city’s residents through increasing access to the Internet and developing meaningful technological products from data. Smart Chicago’s projects affect the city services, health, technology infrastructure, and education arenas.
One example is Crime and Punishment in Chicago. This is an index of data sources surrounding this criminal justice system as it is in Chicago. Smart Chicago tracks data sources from the commission of the crime all the way to prison, discusses how to get data, aggregates sources of data, provides insight into how this data is generated, and exposes what data is unavailable.
Another example is Foodborne Chicago. This is a website connecting individuals who complain about food poisoning on Twitter to the people. It also is in connection with the Chicago Department of Public Heath.
In Washington D.C., open data has been utilized by the District of Columbia Water and Sewage Authority (DC Water). Aging water and sewerage infrastructure is a problem that plagues many old cities, and Washington DC is no exception. The sewer system is composed of piping installed in the mid 1800s and early 1900s. To modernize this ageing infrastructure, DC Water joined forces with private sector partners to enable Water staff members to and streamline business processes across the organization gain greater visibility into its assets.
“From a smarter cities perspective, DC has implemented a water system watch to see when the next water pipe break will occur,” explained Gyrth. “The whole push for open data is to push for a critical mass to join, and we will be able to identify problems faster.”
The Future of Open Data
Open data will make communication and interaction more efficient for the public and governments. Data sources will be identified, making data easier to locate and access. The Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) has been adopted by financial regulators, and government agencies are following suit. LEI is a 20-digit identifier, similar to a barcode, that makes it possible to identify all of the legal entities involved in financial transactions occurring around the globe.
“Financial regulators are adopting the LEI, and under the DATA act, the Treasury has to use a data identifier, (the same one as the LEI), and that means you can pull up a particular company and see what data it has provided,” explained Hudson. “This creates greater accountability. This will happen in the next few years. Ultimately, reporting to government and by government will be automatic.”
Gyrth stressed that federal government can follow the example of smaller, local government action regarding open data. “How do we use data to make process more efficient?” he asked. “How do we improve our websites to make them more responsive to the customer base. We need to look beyond just the big cities that are doing these things.”
“More and more, we are hoping government will see the benefit in working together with each other, and the open government is working toward this,” Gyrth concluded.
For the full open data archive, listen here.
Featured Image Attribution: Crispin Semmens