2 Must-Watch Presentations from Data Transparency 2017

October 13, 2017 12:55 pm PST | Data as a Service
data foundation 2017

Data Transparency 2017, hosted by the Data Foundation, is one of DC’s biggest data-centric events. This is the fifth year for the annual conference — and the first since the DATA Act’s first major reporting deadline went into effect, requiring federal agencies to report their spending using government-wide data standards.



At this one-day event, attendees and presenters explored how publishing open data (using a standardized format) transforms government, compliance, and the private sector. There were more than 50 speakers, including former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra, Special Assistant to the President Chris Liddell, Rep. Virginia Foxx, Margie Graves, the Acting Federal CIO, OFCIO, OMB, The White House, and many more.

Socrata attended the event and we left feeling inspired. Access to better data makes governments run better — it leads to smart, informed decisions, reduced costs, and new ways to exchange information that are potentially helpful for the private sector and can give rise to new business models. Two sessions in particular stood out to us — read highlights and watch the videos, below.


A Case Study from USAC: Open Data Enables Better Management

You may not have heard of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) but close readers of their cell phone bills will be familiar with the universal service fee, one of many fees included in monthly cell phone bills. Those fees from cell phone customers and carriers add up to a $10.5 billion annual budget for the Universal Service Fund, which USAC uses to expand broadband services across the United States.



Daniel Zielaski, the Director of Data Strategy and Insights at USAC, describes how the organization uses data hosted on the Socrata platform to identify opportunities to use the budget more effectively, as well as tracking the flow of money in and out of the fund.

Watch Zielaski’s complete presentation, including Q&A with Hudson Hollister, Interim President of the Data Foundation, for a detailed look at how engaging with open data through Socrata’s solution helps USAC meet those two goals, and furthers their overarching mission to increase broadband availability.



Spotlight on State and Local Government Data

Government leaders from the states of Virginia and Ohio, along with Montgomery County, Maryland, discussed how open data improves their internal management. On the panel were:

  • Victoria Lewis, the Project Manager for Montgomery County’s dataMontgomery
  • Tony Fung, Deputy Secretary of Technology, Virginia
  • Frank Kohstall, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for Ohio’s Treasurer

Lewis kicked off the conversation with a description of how open data legislation can affect local governments. Montgomery County, for instance, is required to inventory and update all public data annually, post a schedule for when data will be published, and also publish responses to Maryland Public Information Act requests.

Beyond legal requirements, though, Lewis points out that if you want internal usage of the data — and Montgomery County certainly does want data to inform the decision-making process — it’s essential to show internal users that the data is up-to-date and accurate. Montgomery County has spent the time to establish data governance, automate updates, and educate internal staffers on the how data can be used.


“Using data from other people and across departments is now becoming the default.” —Victoria Lewis, Project Manager for dataMontgomery


According to Lewis, engaging internal staffers is worth the effort. When department leaders know data is available, great things can result. Lewis notes that police data can help track the performance of social programs and that marketing can tailor efforts based on subscriptions to notifications. “Using data from other people and across departments is now becoming the default,” says Lewis.

Watch the full panel discussion for more insights into how Ohio, Virginia, and Montgomery County use data to improve internal operations.



Montgomery County and USAC are delivering better outcomes thanks to data. If you’re looking to implement a transparent data program in your organization, get in touch for ideas and next steps.

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