Open Government Data Conference: Research Should Drive All Open Data Initiatives

Monica Mayk Parham, Marketing Director, Market Connections, Inc.

I’ve been attending the International Open Government Data Conference, sponsored by Data.gov at the World Bank this week. We’ve seen quite a few advanced uses of open data in both domestic and international contexts. Kenya shared their open data initiative, which has steadily gained interest since its 2011 launch. I met the folks from Socrata, a leading platform for hosting and manipulating open data. And I spoke at length with REI Systems, who works with GSA on Open Government initiatives like Data.gov and USASpending.gov.

A few key conclusions coming out of this conference:

  • Involve developers in the process early. They can help governments figure out the best way to make the data accessible and useful.
  • Data doesn’t have to be perfect before government entities put it out into the world. The public will help governments find holes and improve the data. Governments can allow the public to annotate data and alert governments to errors, and governments need to be responsive to that input.
  • States and municipalities are setting the bar for open data use, and federal agencies can learn from their initiatives. Take a look at the customers Socrata spotlights on their website.

In talking with developers, project managers and open data evangelists, I’m seeing a need for agencies and companies to employ research to guide their efforts. Agencies have hundreds of thousands of datasets and they are investing human and other resources into pulling data from legacy systems and readying it for public release, yet it’s likely not all that data has long-term value. With shrinking budgets and competing priorities, agencies cannot possibly efficiently ready all data for open distribution. By surveying their publics, agencies can validate which data is most desirable and what developers and the public want to be able to do with it. As with any business endeavor, research can help inform strategy and direct efforts, improving the efficiency and efficacy of activities and the end product.

In addition, be sure to check out this AOL Government article that highlights World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s keynote address at the Open Government Data Conference.

Read more on FedConnects here.

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Profile Photo Chris Cairns

This really seems like a big issue — deciding which data should be made available and accessible. You really have to approach this from the standpoint of what issues could be solved by making data available.

Profile Photo Phill Thompson

Good information, thank you. I’d add that the process is similar for nonprofits and government agencies seeking to use their in-house data, although it may be a simpler process than using open data. Some examples of when open data works (as Mr. Cairns suggested) and when it does not would make for a great follow-up article.