Huge week leading up to International Open Data Day

February 21, 2015 6:00 am PDT | Open Data

It’s been a huge week for both Socrata and the open data community.

I’ve just returned from snowy Detroit, where I had the pleasure of being part of the launch of their brand new open data portal, data.detroitmi.gov. Having grown up in southeast Michigan, and having spent a lot of time recently in the Motor City, getting to be part of this project was a special joy for me. Few cities can benefit so greatly from the trust restoring power of government transparency, and I’m excited to see Detroit opening up not only it’s financial records but also data about public safety, blighted properties, and many other topics that are front of mind for Detroit residents. And it was amazing being able to be part of the press briefing, and to see the enthusiasm and deep belief Mayor Duggan’s team has in the power of open data.

The project was made possible through the newly-launched Socrata Foundation, which removed many of the barriers that prevented the city from acquiring the Socrata platform.

Based on a cohesive and committed philanthropic philosophy that harnesses Socrata’s people, technology, and resources, the Socrata Foundation has a clearly defined mandate to support critical and relevant open data efforts that deliver immediate social impact and long-term value for global citizens. Kevin Merrit, our CEO, summarizes the goals of the Socrata Foundation as follows:

“There are so many worthwhile organizations that are truly data-driven at heart, and they want to use open data to positively impact and improve the quality of life for millions of people on just about every continent. We’re determined to support these organizations, and that’s why we established the Socrata Foundation – to provide them with access to our products, services and employees, even if they can’t afford it. We believe that the innovative use of open data can remove a number of barriers standing in the way of social justice and economic progress.”

Now I ride that wave of energy and excitement into this weekend’s fifth-annual International Open Data Day and Code Across events.

David Eaves, internationally recognized open data expert and member of Socrata’s Advisory Board, founded International Open Data Day five years ago as a deliberately loosely-coupled network of locally-focused events, all centered around a common goal of learning from and building off of open data. Code for America joined the party by creating their network of Code Across events across the USA. Said David about the inspiration for Open Data Day:

“It was so important that people felt like they owned the event. It was really about the awesome local organizers all over the world. And it still is. They’re the ones who put in the work. So kudos to them. We just wanted to make sure the right values got integrated – inclusivity, engagement, learning and community building, for example. I think those values are still present today, and that’s a really good thing.”

What started with 30 cities has now grown to 150+ events, in locations as far-flung as Nambia, Nepal, Iran, and Tajikistan.

Since the very beginning of Open Data Day, we at Socrata have been excited to be a part of it. And this year we’re going even bigger — Socrata team members will be in person at a dozen events across the US and Canada, and Socrata data portals and resources will be used in dozens of events around the world.

Wherever we are, we’ll be bonding with our open data community as they write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data. We’ll also be pushing for the adoption of open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments.

And, finally, we’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with several of our customers, including Reading, Pennsylvania and Miami-Dade County, as they launch new open data and data-driven government endeavors today.

In the end, it’s the citizens in these places – and all the places where Open Data Day events are being held today – that will truly benefit.

The world is absolutely opening up, and opening up wide, one government and community at a time; and, at Socrata, we’re proud and privileged to be part of this transformation to 21st century digital democracy.


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The Evolution of Financial Transparency

February 23, 2015