Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of April 6, 2015

April 10, 2015 7:46 am PST | Data as a Service

The open data movement takes off this week, maybe literally, as NASA revs up for its Space App Challenge. Back down on Earth, the empress of civic tech discusses the morals and money of open government, while the president tackles global warming with open data. Meanwhile, Socrata’s own Ian Kalin joins the feds. Spring’s here, and the movers and shakers of open government are kicking things into high gear.

Open Data in Outer Space

NASA and IBM have teamed for the space agency’s latest partnering initiative, the Space App Challenge. Starting April 10, more than 10,000 people in 136 cities across 162 countries will be tackling problems in areas such as, “‘Print Your Own Space Food,’ ‘Robots, Robots, Robots,’ and ‘Clean Water Mapping,’” reported Ron Miller in Developers can use any cloud platform, and, “will have access to 200 NASA data sources.” Related events include the Women of Data event in New York City, where astronaut Cady Coleman and Deborah Diaz, NASA’s CTO and an open data enthusiast, will speak.

Q&A: Code for America’s Jennifer Pahlka

As the founder of Code for America, Pahlka, “has left a trail of innovation that reaches from Oakland City Hall to the White House,” declared Matt O’Brien in the San Jose Mercury News. Pahlka credited the Bay Area’s value system for the growing power of her trailblazing work. Civic hackers want, “to live in a society that matches our values,” Pahlka said. She also cited the immense market for open data, “about $180 billion in federal, state, and local,” projects, and expects more high-profile tech people to migrate to open data work. Pahlka also addressed why, “government fell so far behind in the digital revolution,” pointing to the gulf between what’s been expected of government historically, versus what works today.

Open Data Fights Climate Change

The White House released more than 150 datasets to spur innovative solutions to global warming, as part of the president’s Climate Data Initiative. The datasets all relate to health, reported Jason Shueh in, and join the hundreds of others available on “Our climate policies have to be based on fact,” explained John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “and we want to make those data available to everybody.” Holdren’s remarks were followed by comments from White House Chief Data Scientist D.J. Patil, “who moderated a tech industry panel with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and GIS mapping company Esri.” 

Government Data Fuels Job Creation

The U.S. Department of Commerce is, “among the most important collectors and publishers of data in the nation, and thus on the planet,” stated Alex Howard in TechRepublic. He explored the department’s open data goals in Q&A with its newly appointed chief data officer, former Socrata Director of Open Data, Ian Kalin. “There’s a lot of great data from the government that can help people create jobs and services,” declared Kalin. In his new job, he wants to provide, “a great quality and quantity of that information,” to enable entrepreneurs and others to generate job growth. For now, “I’m on a listening tour,” Kalin emphasized, to learn about the department’s customers, performance, and hurdles. 

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