Open Data Had a Busy Year in 2013
2013 was a watershed year in open data on both an international and regional level. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant events, achievements, and trends in open data from around the world.
Transparency Becomes Mainstream
Proponents of open data certainly had a lot to celebrate in 2013. The UK was the epicenter for several significant international achievements. Most notable was the signing of the G8 Charter on Open Data in June in Northern Ireland. In addition to affirming what is now an established canon of open data principles (e.g. “Open by Default” and “Accessible and Re-usable by All”), the agreement focused on the importance of data quality in 14 distinct categories, ranging from health to finance and contracts. In this way, the charter provided more formal, high-profile recognition of the link between open data and social and economic progress.
The City of London hosted two major events this past year, including the Open Data Institute Summit and the annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which attracted 1,000 delegates from more than 60 countries.
Elsewhere on the European continent, more than 9,000 people thronged Barcelona, Spain in November for the annual Smart City Expo World Congress, marking the highest total attendance at that conference since its inception in 2010. Much of the focus of this year’s event was on how open data can yield economic and quality-of-life benefits ranging from smarter power consumption and reduced traffic congestion to improved access to city services through mobile devices. Several members from the Socrata team traveled to Barcelona to demo our open data solutions, as well as our expanded set of capabilities as a Microsoft Partner.
Open Data Goes Local in the U.S.
The U.S. was also a hotbed of activity for open data in 2013. With the momentum created by the Executive Order on Open Data in May 2013, several Federal agencies made noble strides toward greater transparency, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. Still, many agencies have a considerable amount of work to do to achieve compliance with the mandate. In another prominent show of support for the principles laid out in both the U.S. Executive Order and the G8 Charter on Open Data, the White House released its second Open Government National Action Plan in December, detailing 23 new or expanded commitments to advance accountability and citizen participation in government.
Yet, as noted in a recent post on the Sunlight Foundation blog, the big stories in open data in the U.S. actually happened at the state and local level. In fact, more than half of the existing local open data policies in the U.S. (there are currently 25 such policies nationwide) were enacted in the last 12 months alone—a remarkable trend.
Cities that pioneered the use of open data, like New York City and San Francisco, took their initiatives even further. For example, New York announced a major upgrade to its NYC Open Data site, including several new APIs and navigation features that make it easier to search and browse its more than 1,100 public datasets by category. 2013 also saw the rise of smaller and medium-sized cities adopting open data initiatives. In August, South Bend, Indiana became one of the smallest cities (with a population of 100,000) to launch a public information site.
These and other examples underscore the enormous potential for growth that the open data movement has heading into 2014. It is hard to argue that, in the past year, transparency went mainstream. None of us can predict the future, but 2014 is definitely primed to eclipse even that amazing achievement.