Launching the Open Data 500

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The GovLab at NYU Releases “The Open Data 500”:

First comprehensive study of companies that use open government data

 Website demonstrates 500 ways to build a business on free data from government

Department of Commerce to join the GovLab’s first business/government roundtable

A vast new reservoir of economic value, estimated to be worth trillions of dollars a year globally, has begun to be tapped through technology-driven collaboration between federal agencies and the private sector. This new tech boom involves governments at all levels making an ever-increasing amount of their data stores easily and freely available – and companies learning how to apply this data for innovation and business growth. While much of this data has been legally available to the public in principle, the government is now working to make it more easily accessible and usable as “open data”: free public data that many believe can be used to launch commercial and nonprofit ventures, understand social and market trends, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems analytically.

Today, The GovLab at NYU is pleased to launch the website of the Open Data 500, the first research study to document the large number of U.S.-based companies that are already using open government data.  The Open Data 500 is an ongoing study that will be updated on a continuing basis. It shows that open data is not just a theoretical concept but a real-world business resource that is already being put to value- and job-creating use. The study is supported by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, were announced today at an event hosted by the Center for Data Innovation in Washington, DC.

“The Open Data 500 is giving us the first detailed, in-depth view of a new business reality,” said Joel Gurin, senior advisor at the GovLab and director of the Open Data 500 study. “We’re finding all kinds of companies that just wouldn’t exist without open government data. Open data is now a part of American business, and companies that learn how to use it will have a competitive edge.” The 500 companies covered by the study primarily use open federal data, said Gurin, but some use state, city, and local open data as well.  Gurin is also author of the recently published book, Open Data Now, which describes the uses and potential of open data.

In order to help businesses and government agencies connect and work together to use open data more effectively, the study is collecting information on which kinds of companies use which kinds of data. Many businesses that use government data have complained that it is often collected, maintained, and made available in ways that are difficult to use.

As Beth Simone Noveck, founder and director of the GovLab, observes, “This study shows that open data is already a major national resource and business driver, but we have a long way to go before it will reach its full potential.  Governments need to provide accurate, complete, and usable Open Data to provide transparency and serve the needs of businesses and citizens. At the GovLab, we plan to work with both businesses and government as an objective facilitator to help make the Open Data ecosystem work more effectively.”

In that context, the GovLab also announced today that it plans to convene a series of roundtables between government agencies and companies that use their data to help improve the processes and priorities for data release. The Department of Commerce has committed to participate in the first of these roundtables; other federal Departments have expressed their intent to participate in future ones.

“The Department of Commerce is very excited by the Open Data 500 study and we see it as confirmation of something we have believed all along: that improving our ability to package and disseminate our enormous data assets can enable America’s businesses to be more innovative, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed,” said Mark Doms, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. “We are thrilled to be working with the GovLab on the upcoming roundtables and to learn firsthand what we can do to make our data more valuable and accessible.”

Because it plans to make the Open Data 500 a living resource, the GovLab will update, extend, and deepen its findings continually. Companies that wish to be included in the study should fill out the information found at the Survey tab on OpenData500.com. All data collected in the study can be downloaded from the site, and the GovLab eagerly encourages other researchers to analyze the data and share their results.

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