A Global Week for Open Data

By Joel Gurin, The GovLab

Last week was a memorable one for the worldwide Open Data and Open Government movements. (More on how those are related in an upcoming post.) Some key events in London and announcements elsewhere set new benchmarks for Open Data. Here’s what transpired:

  • On Tuesday, October 29, the London-based Open Data Institute (ODI) held its first annual Open Data Summit. I had the opportunity to do a live blog from the event – great speakers, fast pace, and a lot of insights.
  •  At the ODI event, Beth Noveck, founder and director of the GovLab, announced that we are now partnering with the ODI to do a UK version of the U.S. Open Data 500 – our study of 500 companies that use open government data as a key part  of their business.
  • On the same day, in New York, Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute presented McKinsey’s new report on the economic value of Open Data. In this bold report, Michael and his colleagues estimate that open government data on seven sectors of the economy has a value of about $3 trillion a year worldwide. The report is likely to spark some debate, as techies, economists, and policymakers debate how such estimates should be derived. The McKinsey study is an essential benchmark report – read it and share your opinions.
  • Later in the week – back in London – the Open Government Partnership, now with more than 60 countries participating, held a two-day conference and festival to discuss and celebrate Open Government initiatives, many of them relating to Open Data, from around the world. The conference opened with Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that the UK will release Open Data on “beneficial ownership” – the identities of the true owners of corporate entities that are now often hidden behind layers of shell companies. This is a change that civil society organizations have been advocating for years, and that could be a major tool in fighting corruption and money-laundering. More on that subject in an upcoming post.
  • At the Partnership conference, the GovLab, where I work as a senior advisor, announced the launch of the GovLab Academy – a new online resource for “purpose-driven learners” who want to know how to apply principles of Open Government in their own areas. I had the opportunity to interview several conference delegates from around the world who had compelling Open Gov stories to tell. I learned about new initiatives to fight the misuse of aid funds in Afghanistan, develop a user-focused Open Data policy in Mexico, expose corruption in Kenya, and deliver community services more effectively in Azerbaijan. I’ll write more here when the videos of these interviews are posted online soon.
  • Finally, today, I’m back in the U.S., on a visit to Washington, DC, where I’ve just joined the advisory board of the Data Transparency Coalition. The Coalition, which held a great Open Data conference in September, has been dedicated to passing the DATA Act – a subject I discussed with Hudson Hollister, founder of the Coalition, in a blog post a few months ago. It’s a good time to be working with the Coalition:  Just yesterday, the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed the DATA Act and reported it to the full Senate, although with some changes that still need work.

You know when an idea’s time is right – and Open Data looks more and more like a potentially world-changing idea. More to come in the months ahead.

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