Open Data: Bringing Down the Barriers to Innovation

Abhi Nemani | Civic Commons | September 20, 2011

Today, representatives from dozens of countries are coming together at the United Nations in New York for the Open Government Partnership. They will discuss shared commitments to making government more accountable, efficient, and participatory. (See their lovely overview video below.) As I believe open data will need to be a centerpiece of that effort and others, I wanted to share some thoughts on the benefits of opening data in a proactive, structured, and engaging way.

Platforms for open data are effectively avenues for citizens — or rather developer — engagement. Many cities now feature open data catalogs, which tend to list the available data sets the city has opened up, linking to the raw files for developers to download and use. Others have deployed more sophisticated data hosting and management solutions, which not only list the data sets but provide direct access for developers via an API, and often provide visualizations. In either case, though, from what we’re learning from developers we’re talking to, ease of access to the data itself is key. That is, governments should aim to eliminate the roadblocks that stand between a data set and a good idea...