Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of August 24, 2015

August 28, 2015 4:00 pm PST | Data as a Service

The White House goes local this week, with a new open source map showing good works — and a new privacy initiative based on citizen feedback. In California, elected officials look for productive ways to regulate open data. Plus: Can anyone make money with open data?

Big Data: Improving Access to Government

“With the McKinsey Global Institute estimating that more than $3 trillion in economic value” sits inside closed government datasets, writes California senator Bob Hertzberg in the San Jose Mercury News, it’s clear that open government strategies are a big win for both the public and private sector. Hertzberg believes California needs to “lay the groundwork for a substantive and thoughtful open-data policy,” reflected in his proposed Senate Bill 272. The bill would require a catalog of systems used to manage California’s public data, “a vital first step in promoting open data across the state.”

Smart Cities Evolve Through Open Data

Ben Cave of the Open Data Institute (ODI) thinks urban planners of smart cities need to wise up to human behavior, reports Mark Say in the UKAuthority. Instead of planning at levels of intricate detail, Cave thinks smart cities need to be free to evolve. Cave, “who is taking a lead” on smart cities for ODI, says such overdone planning “can easily be undone by people behaving in ways that were not expected.” Smart cities, says Cave, are “complicated networks of interactions between different things.” Advance knowledge of how people will interact with tools doesn’t really exist, so a better solution is “an open city with open data,” allowing for the unpredictable nature of humans and city life.

U.S. Becoming “Data-Driven”

Six months into his job as U.S. Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil believes the U.S. is becoming a data-driven government. As Molly Bernhart Walker reports in FierceGovernmentIT, Patil highlighted three areas of progress, including the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative. The project “aims to study the health records and DNA of one million volunteers.” That spelled government intrusion to many people, as well as big concerns about data security. Patil noted how in response, the White House recently released privacy and trust principles for the project. In the criminal justice arena, Patil called out the huge potential to advance reforms and prevent injustices, and said his agency’s current work is “just the start.”

Tracking Government’s Hard Work

The White House is using mapping visualization to help citizens tap into the empowering projects the federal government is operating in America’s cities and towns. “In partnership with more than 15 Federal agencies,” explains Davey Alba in Wired, the administration has built an open source map to show community-based initiatives rolled out across the country. The White House hopes the map promotes focus on projects of local interest, “rather than the laundry list of programs the government has.” Civic tech enthusiasts can count on regular data updates, and can access the source code on GitHub.

All You Need Is Open Data

Can you run a business off of free data? Jon Card, writing for the Guardian, thinks so. Card explains how open data’s not just for civic tech app developers, it’s for anyone. “Businesses can access vast datasets” and use them to build software and “ultimately, make money.” Card also believes nearly any company can use open data to improve its “business intelligence, planning and research.” He presents a seven-part guide to making a plan to help entrepreneurs utilize open data and zero in on the best information troves for their business.


Want more open data resources? Download the Getting Started With Open Data Guide!

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