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Opening Up Government: Using Data to Stimulate Economic Growth

Recently IBM released a report, Opening Up Government: How to Unleash the Power of Information for New Economic Growth. If you are interested in open government, I highly recommend taking a look at the report. There are many elements that I did not touch upon in this quick summary. One example would be there is section that looks at how open government has evolved and challenges ahead. Below is a quick summary of the report, which you can download here. In my summary, I tried to point out a couple other key sections from the report:

Government leaders must make increasingly difficult choices to promote improved standards of living, economic health and new growth, social progress, security and public safety. Many jurisdictions are experimenting with open initiatives. Others are already well along their open government journey and some have borne fruit. To realize and sustain the potential benefits of open government, four focus areas require strategic integration, execution and measurement:

The report addresses a common problem across government, as government is plagued by being “data rich and insight poor.” Extracting knowledge and managing large volumes of data to help aide in policy development and to improve citizen services is still an enormous challenge for government. As the report identifies, although this is certainly a challenge, government will not stop collecting data, touchpoints to collect data will continue to expand across government, and demand for data is increasing from both citizens and businesses. Undoubtedly, government is challenged on how to use all this data in a way to best suits the needs of citizens. The report starts off by asserting:

There’s no turning back now– citizens’ demands for openness are here to stay. More open relationships guide how people interact with both government and business, what they value and whom they trust. To what end? Because it engages citizens in new ways, “open government” can better enable outcomes such as innovation, jobs and new economic growth while increasing revenues and avoiding costs. But, ambiguity about its resulting benefits, impact and sustainability– coupled with uneven feedback mechanisms and the information explosion – can threaten the progress already made. To best position governments and citizens for desired results, four focus areas now require integrated execution and measurement: information, engagement model, digital platform and analytics competency.

This is a perfect set up for the rest of the guide. One section in particular that I found extremely interesting was how governments are sharing data with citizens. IBM identified four different practices of how data is being used to help generate economic opportunity and growth. IBM’s four different practices are, providing raw data, “seeding” innovation, enabling collective problem solving and creating what they call, “the bazaar.”

There are interesting observations for each category identified. For raw data, IBM notes how new businesses are starting to form based on open data. The example they use is the San Diego financial information company, BrightScope, which uses 401(k) data from the Department of Labor. BrightScope helps retirees understand associated costs and fees related to retirees.

Seeding Innovation section provides information on tapping into the collective knowledge of individuals – essentially here IBM has identified numerous government initiated challenges and provided success stories. The next section, “enabling collective problem solving,” is also very similar to “seeding innovation” – with a slight twist as seeding innovation was more freeform and enabling the collective is more structured by government. The final section, “creating the bazaar,” highlights the idea of government as a platform – and how releasing data is the backbone of mobile apps created by citizens.

I’d highly recommend reading through the report and would love to hear some of your perspectives.

The IBM Analytics Solution Center (ASC) is part of a network of global analytics centers that provides clients with the analytics expertise to help them solve their toughest business problems. Check out their Analytics to Outcomes group on GovLoop.

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