GovLab Blog GovLab Index Open Data Open Data 500

The GovLab Index: Open Data – 2016 Edition

By Robert Montano and Prianka Srinivasan
Please find below the latest installment in The GovLab Index series, inspired by Harper’s Index. “The GovLab Index: Open Data” provides an update on our previous Open Data installment, and highlights global trends in Open Data and the release of public sector information.
Previous installments of the Index include Prizes and Challenges, Measuring Impact with Evidence, The Data Universe, Participation and Civic Engagement and Trust in Institutions. Please share any additional statistics and research findings on the intersection of technology in governance with us by emailing shruti at
Value and Impact

Public Views on and Use of Open Government Data in the US

  • Percentage of Americans surveyed that used the internet to find data or information pertaining to government in 2015  according to Pew Research study: 65%
  • How many Americans think the federal government shares data very or somewhat effectively with the public: 44%
  • How many Americans “could think of an example where local government did not provide enough useful information about data and information to the public”: 19%
  • Percentage of Americans who have “used government sources to find information about student or teacher performance”: 20%
    • Those who have used government sources “to look for information on the performance of hospitals or health care providers”: 17%
    • To find out about contracts between governmental agencies and external firms: 7%
  • Percentage of Americans with a smartphone who have used open data: 84%
  • Percentage of Americans surveyed who think governments are very effective in sharing data to the public according to Pew Research study: 5%

Efforts and Involvement

  • Countries participating in the Open Government Partnership today: 70
    • In 2011? 8
  • Countries with open data portals: 52
    • In 2013? Approximately 40
  • Percentage of governments that share open data on the performance of public education: 12% 
  • Percentage of governments that release open data on health services: 7%
  • Number of cities globally that participated in 2016 International Open Data Hackathon Day: 84
  • Percentage of “open data readiness” assessed by European Data Portal: 59%
  • Number of U.S. cities with Open Data Sites in 2016: 119
  • Number of governments who have adopted the International Open Data Charter: 35
  • Number of non-state organizations who have endorsed the International Open Data Charter: 30
  • Number of places analyzed by the Open Data Index: 122
    • In 2014? 97
  • Top 5 countries in Open Data Barometer rankings: UK, US, Sweden, France, New Zealand
  • Percentage of countries, out of 122 assessed, that open their election results: 58%
    • In Sub-Saharan Africa? 42%
    • In Asia? 41%
    • In Eastern Europe? 71%
    • In Latin America? 71%
  • Number of cities participating in the Open Data Census: 39
  • Latin American countries with the highest number of open-data driven companies surveyed by the World Bank: Mexico, Chile and Brazil
  • Asian countries with the highest number of open-data driven companies surveyed by the World Bank: India, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia
  • Average amount of equity and quasi-equity investment needed to finance data-driven companies in Latin America and Asia: $2 and $3 million
  • Savings through real-time transport data in London, UK: £15-58 million each year 
  • Rate of completion on coordination mechanism commitments among OGP members: 71%
  • Rate of completion on sub-national open data commitments among OGP members: 75%

Examining Datasets

  • Number of datasets available through 189,814
  • Number of datasets available through 39, 710
  • Number of datasets available through 23,270
  • Number of datasets available via the Open Data Index: 156
  • Countries assessed by the Open Data Barometer (ODB) that release data on government spending: 8%
  • Number of datasets classed as “open” by the Open Data Index: 9% (down from 12% in 2014)
  • Percentage of countries surveyed by ODB (92) with open data initiatives in place: 55%
  • Percentage of data available online in ODB survey: 76%
  • Percentage of civil societies/tech communities utilizing data in ODB survey: 93%
  • ODB Government data updated at regular intervals: 73%
  • Average ranking of 92 countries by ODB with some form of open data policy (scaled 0-100): 33
  • Percentage of datasets found by ODB in top 10 ranked countries: 50%
  • Percentage of open datasets in Australia, according to Open Data Census: 30%
  • Number of datasets in the Caribbean according to Open Data Census: 27
  • Percentage of open datasets in the Caribbean, according to Open Data Census: 7%

About the Open Government Partnership” Open Government Partnership, 2016.
Aligning Supply and Demand for Better Governance.” Independence Reporting Mechanism Report of the Open Government Partnership. 2015.
Americans’ Views on Open Government Data.” Pew Research Center. April 2015.
Characterization study of the Infomediary Sector”., July 2012.
Creating Value through Open Data,” European Data Portal, European Commission. 2015.

Data Will Only Get Us So Far. We Need it to be Open.” World Economic Forum. January 16, 2016.
Datasets of the United Kingdom
The Economic Benefits of Commercial GPS Use in the U.S. and The Costs of Potential Disruption.” NPD Report. Nam D. Pham. 2011.

The Economic Impact of Open Data”, Socrata. February 27, 2014.

“The economic impact of open data: what do we already know?”, International Trade Forum, December 2015.
European Data Portal, accessed September, 2016.
International Open Data Hackathon” Open Data Day, accessed September 2016.
Investment in Open Data Challenge Series could see 5 to 10-fold return to UK economy over 3 years” Open Data Institute News,October 2015.
Landsat Benefited U.S. Economy by $1.8 Billion in 2011.” NASA Landsat Science. August 30, 2015.
Making sense of US$3 trillion – Estimating the value of Open Data for Small Developing Economies”, IODC Blog. May, 2015.  
New Development: Leveraging Big Data Analytics in the Public Sector.” Pandula Gamage. Public Money and Management. June 2016.
New Surveys Reveal Dynamism, Challenges of Open Data-Driven Businesses in Developing Countries”, Ala Morrison, Data Blog of the World Bank. December 15, 2014.
New Research Shows the Impact of Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition”, Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition. May 28, 2015.
New Zealand’s Christchurst Earthquake Clusters.” The Governance Lab.
Open Data Barometer, 2015 Global Report. World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data Institute.
Open for Business: How Open Data Can Help Achieve the G20 Growth Target” Omidyar Network, June 2014.
The Open Data Economy Unlocking Economic Value by Opening Government and Public Data” by Dinand Tinholt, Capgemini Consulting. February 2013.  
Open Data for Economic Growth”, Report of the World Bank. June 25, 2014.
Open Data in the United States”,, accessed September 2016.
Permission granted: The economic value of data assets under alternative policy regimes”, 2016 Report. Open Data Institute.
Policy in the Data Age: Data Enablement for the Common Good.” Karim Tadjeddine and Martin Lundqvist. McKinsey and Company. August 2016.
Shakespeare Review: An Independent Review of Public Sector Information”, Commissioned by the UK Government. May 2013.
Researching the Economics of Data to Help Government make Better Choices, Jack Hardinges, Jeni Tennison and Peter Wells
Review of recent studies on PSI reuse and related market developments.” European Commission. 2011.
“Tracking the state of government Open Data” Global Open Data Index, accessed September 2016.
URBAN MOBILITY IN THE SMART CITY AGE, Schneider Group, ARUP, The Climate Group. 2016
US City Open Data Census” Open Knowledge International, accessed September 2016.
What is the Economic Impact of Geo Services?”, Oxera Report. 2013.

GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

Canada's Open Data Exchange (ODX) and GovLab launch OD150- Canada

Cross posted from Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX):
Data is the New Gold.
Open data isn’t what you think. It’s more than a transparency exercise for government. It stretches beyond social good. In reality, it’s a growing resource companies can leverage to affect their bottom line. Data is the new gold.
Whether used to enhance, predict or validate current offerings, better understand your customers, or to explore new markets, open data is turning the heads of profit-driven companies around the globe. But how does Canada stack up? What datasets are companies using? Where are the bottlenecks?
We’re benchmarking how Canadian companies use open data. Can you help?
Open Data 150 (OD150) is the first comprehensive, internationally-comparable inventory of open data for commercial use. Our goal is to pinpoint 150 companies using open data in Canada.
If your company uses open data – or you can spread the word to companies that do – we hope you’ll get involved by filling out the survey.

Take the survey (En)

Remplissez le Sondage (FR)

This survey is not a random statistical sample; it is a thorough inventory to map open data use. The OD150 will help to raise awareness of open data use in Canada, focus advocacy and influence policy.
Results of the survey will help Canada to:

  • Compare our commercial open data use to other countries;
  • Identify best-practices and urgent needs;
  • Create stronger links between those who use data and those who provide it;
  • Shape advocacy and policy, ultimately opening more data sets; and
  • Grow Canada’s economy.

What’s in it for you? Survey respondents will receive an 8GB USB stick that looks like a gold bar, stamped with “Data is the new gold.” It’s stocked with case studies, early Open Cities Index results, and more about the OD150. You’ll be the envy of the office! The survey also provides an opportunity to heighten awareness for your brand, as we will be spotlighting outstanding participants.
A  joint project between The Govlab and Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX), OD150 is supported by Open North, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and Thomson Reuters.
Go to to complete the survey. Spread the word. Do it for Canada. Do it for the USB stick. Just do it.
Not using open data yet? Start the conversation on our Community or contact us directly to discuss your needs.
Written By ODX

GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

Canada joins the GovLab Open Data 500 Global Network

GovLab is thrilled to announce the newest member to the Open Data Global Network: Canada.
Canada joins an international network of researchers, open data organizations and government agencies from the U.S., Mexico, Italy, Korea and Australia that seek to understand how open data is used by businesses to create new lines of activities or jobs and drive innovation.
Canada’s Open Data 150 is a joint project between The Govlab and Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX), supported by Open North, FedDev and ThomsonReuters. It is the first comprehensive, internationally comparable mapping of 150 Canadian companies that are using open data to launch new products and services; create commercial and nonprofit ventures; optimize their business process; conduct research and/or make data-driven decisions.
“Becoming a member of the Open Data Global Network through the Open Data 150 is integral to ODX’s mandate to drive commercialization efforts around open data,” says ODX Managing Director Kevin Tuer. “This will help Canada better understand its own open data landscape, as well as uncover new and exciting open data-enabled business models. We’re hoping to inspire others looking to tap into this vast natural resource of data.”
To learn more about OD150 Canada, contact Beth Bailey at Canada’s Open Data Exchange.
You can read more about the global network and access country mapping, study findings, call for participation and news about open data policy from around the world here.

GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

Open Data Report from Australia – New Policies and Statements from PM Turnbull

In September 2015, The Honorable Malcolm Turnbull was elected Prime Minister of Australia.  In the following months, several important open data initiatives have been initiated from the Public Data Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. As well, new programs are being designed based as evidence from the results of Australia’s Open Data 500 Study, a joint project of The GovLab and The Government of Australia.  
Below, we share a reporting and exciting update for open data enthusiasts of key activities, thanks to Naomi Perdomo, Advisor with Public Data Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the Government of Australia.
Australian Government Announces a Public Data Policy Statement

  • On Monday, December 7, 2015, the Australian Government released a Public Data Policy Statement. The Policy Statement commits the Government to specific actions designed to optimize the use and reuse of public data; to release non-sensitive data as open by default; and to collaborate with the private and research sectors to extend the value of public data for the benefit of the Australian public.
  • In addition to the statement, the Australian Government has announced that it will be making openly available and free-of-charge one of the most requested high-value datasets – the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF). Making the G-NAF available under open data terms will remove barriers that restrict the data’s use and promote innovation.

Public Sector Data Management Report

  • In August, the Government of Australia released preliminary results from the OD500 Australia Study which were used as evidence to influence the recommendations in a report and are considered the starting point for its consultation with the community about open data.
  • The Government is planning to hold roundtable discussions with five key sectors (spatial and land, socio-economic, health, transport and environment (incl. energy) in the first half of next year.

DataStart – A new government program to encourage startups to use open data

  • One of the findings from the OD500AU was that the majority of respondents were established organizations (only 26% were founded in the last 5 years). As a result of this finding, the Government has initiated a program specifically designed to engage entrepreneurs, small businesses and the startup community. Called DataStart, this public-private partnership is enabling new commercial opportunities for Australian startups by leveraging open data with training and access to tools, resources and networks for growing their business. 
  • The Government recently held a series of information nights around the country to promote the initiative. The roadshow was not only a great way to promote the initiative but hugely beneficial for in terms of meeting with stakeholders and uncovering issues and barriers to using the data by small businesses and startups.

Australia joins the Open Government Partnership

  • On November 17, 2015, the Australian government announced its  commitment to joining OGP and began public consultation on the Government’s National Action Plan.

More information is available about Australia’s Open Data 500 Study and early reporting of the study’s results. You can read about more about the Open Data Global Network here

CrowdSourcing GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

#CrowdLaw — On the Verge of Disruptive Change….Designing to Scale Impact

Coauthored by Maria Hermosilla
This post is third in series of four “reports from the field” on #crowdlaw
On September 24th, The GovLab held its third online global conference on Crowd Law. The goal of these peer-to-peer learning events are to deepen the collective understanding of what works, connect practitioners across the world and accelerate the implementation of more effective and legitimate participatory lawmaking practices. GovLab presented several research questions for input on how practitioners design projects to scale impact: What kinds of opposition and support have practitioners faced? What types of project designs and tools have enable projects to overcome barriers? What are the enabling conditions that define a successful Crowdlaw engagement?
Crowdlaw, or open, collaborative crowdsourced lawmaking, is a tech-enabled approach for drafting legislation or constitutions, that offers an alternative to the traditional method of policymaking, which typically occurs behind closed doors and with little input from the people it affects.
The aspiration of CrowdLaw practitioners and advocates is the creation of laws that are the following:

  • more effective because they bring in more diverse ideas
  • more legitimate because they are done with broader participation
  • more accountable because the lawmaking process becomes subject to greater scrutiny

This session included lightning talks about #crowdlaw projects underway in Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, United States, Morocco, Libya and Spain, which we wrote about here. The GovLab then moderated a group discussion with over 45 global practitioners that covered three themes: Outreach strategies, Designing to overcome barriers; and Measuring impact.  The full video is available here.
The emerging field of Crowdlaw is comprised of practitioners that include lawyers, platform developers, government employees, research scientists, and citizen advocates among others. This ambitious cadre of innovators are experimenting with civic tech platforms and agile development to grow a movement for participatory democracy. #CrowdLaw projects and pilots happening worldwide are great examples of the current state of the field and include GovRight’s Legislation Lab, which is being used in 9 countries, Neos’ Policy Forge, Plataforma Brasil,  e-Democracia Project, and Plaza Podemos.
Launching tools to crowdsource legislation is not without challenges. Barriers for successful adoption, and the degree to which they influence outcomes, vary by region, culture and context, but overwhelmingly many of our practitioners shared a common set of challenges when trying to scale impact. We share a few areas discussed below:
Information Overload: Maintaining Legitimacy while Processing Vast Amounts of Feedback
Crowdlaw projects, by the nature of their design, accumulate vast amounts of information. Feedback and free response is solicited through chats, surveys, user groups, wiki-labs and other participation engagement channels which can be difficult to organize in a consistent way.  These contributions are vital to maintaining the legitimacy of the process to support subsequent decision-making. As noted by Daniela Hirsch, a lawyer from Chile who presented La Constitución de Todos (Everyone’s Constitution), which is a volunteer run project without funds,  these time-consuming processes are difficult to manage and leave little time to consider other important functions of online participation, like how to maintain and/or increase engagement.
Unchartered Territories: Scaling For Impact Beyond A Core User Group
The panelists shared a number of successes, but for many of them the next stage of growth calls for leveraging the tools to reach a wider audience or achieve greater participation beyond an initial internal group of users or early adopters.
Podemos, a political party created in May 2014, by leftist activists protesting against a democratic system that they feel no longer represents them, earned six of the 54 seats that Spain has in the European parliament. Podemos employed new technologies to interact with citizens and sustain their support. The challenge is to apply these participation mechanisms that they have been using for the political, internal organization into a government scenario. With the opportunity to govern, party leaders seek to build on their tech approach model and apply it to the legislative and policy making process.
Neos, using it’s customized platform, offers thematic groups of “volunteer policy advisors” a collaborative drafting platform so they can discuss and review and draft together. This tool has grown in adoption, but the challenge is how to nurture it to move beyond an open network model to one that can be integrated with actual legislative policymaking.
Building the Best Platform: Choosing the Right Tools for Engagement
Among the challenges mentioned, participants noted the challenge of integrating diverse technologies in a user-friendly way. There are a plethora of collaboration tools available (often free) and many practitioners are experimenting with how to integrate different tools into their specific platform. The Austrian political party NEOS centralizes all the technologies available for scheduling, messaging, and building networks into a cockpit for its collaborators, but there are still too many choices. Countries with a high use of Facebook,  like the Phillipines, for example, can benefit from integrating crowdlaw strategies directly with social media platforms. But, as noted by Tarik Nesh-Nash from GovRight, apathy in mature democracies presents a core challenge to getting people to a crowdlaw platform. Citizens often must choose among many political causes.
Previous blogs in this series:

Read more about GovLab’s work in #CrowdLaw here

GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

Open Data 500 Australia study reveals early insights

Today the Department of Communications of the Australian Government issued early findings of the first stage of their Open Data 500 study. The Government has released 65 use cases that document the new and innovate ways Australian organisations are using open government data.

In partnership with GovLab and along with other members of  OD500 Global Network, which include the U.S., Mexico, Italy and Korea, Australia is analyzing open government data in a manner that is both globally comparative and domestically specific. Early findings are below. 
Cross-posted from the Australian Government Department of Communications press release
The study targets companies and non-profit organisations that use open government data to generate new business, develop new products and services, improve business operations or create social value.
Small businesses made up the majority of participants (79 percent) primarily from data and technology, research and consulting, and geospatial and mapping companies.
Pie charts showing private companies 69% non-profits 20% revenue sources included consulting 49% government contracts 43% data analysis for clients 29%
Most companies are using data to:
Statistics, create new or improved products and services 65%, generate cost effeciencies 55%, identify new opportunities 51%
The survey shows companies are using multiple datasets:
Companies using multiple data sets, 40% of participants said they use between 11 and 50 data sources, 22 % use more than 100 data sources, 31% use less than 10 data sources
And provides insight into what data is being used:
Open 500 data, 60% use geospatial/mapping data, 49% use environmental data, 45% use social and demographic, 42% use GPS/positioning.
The Open Data 500 Australia will remain open to continue to build the catalogue of open data use cases.  Any organisation currently using open government data is encouraged to participate in the study at:
The full report is available.

GovLab Blog Open Data Open Data 500

Open Data 200 Italy, pronti a partire!

Mapping the users of open data in Italy

Today we are launching Open Data 200 Italy, the first ever attempt to map the emerging open data ecosystem in Italy.  In the spirit of being open and collaborative, we call upon everyone to help create this map. If you are an Italian Open Data user, please make yourself known and share details about the way you use Open Data. If you know of corporations and other organizations (small and large) who are using Open Data, let us know.
Italy joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011 and released an action plan and the first version of the national open data catalog the same year. Since then, the Italian open data community has been growing consistently. So far, the interest around open data has mobilized hundreds of activists who annually gather in Bologna under the label of Spaghetti Open Data.
 In 2011, Italy joined the Open Government Partnership and launched Since then, relevant actions in the open data field have been undertaken: the release of the Guidelines for the semantic interoperability through Linked open data in 2012, the introduction of the “Open by Default” principle, by modifying the article 52 in the CAD – Codice di Amministrazione Digitale (Code for the Digital Administration).In 2014 the Agency for digital Italy (AdID) released the Italian National Agenda and the Open Data Guidelines. At the beginning of June 2015, a new version of the was launched. In the meantime, we have registered a significant number of open data initiatives, at different levels:  (OpenParlamento, OpenCoesione, OpenBilanci, Confiscati bene, OpenExpo, ItaliaSicura, SoldiPubblici etc.). In the wake of the rising demand for smarter disclosure and higher quality standards, we have observed the development of an interesting ecosystem involving companies, non-governmental organizations, developers, journalists, civil servants, researchers. Yet, no systematic research exists on how open data is being used.
Open Data 200
Starting from a collaboration between the Digital Commons Lab  at Fondazione Bruno Kessler and the GovLab, Italy is now proudly part of the Open Data 500 Global Network, and today we are happy to announce the launch of Open Data 200 Italia, the first systematic investigation on the social and economic value of open data across Italy. The main goal of the project is to map companies and subsequently demonstrate the impact of open data on all sectors.
We seek to identify 200 companies and non-profit ventures based in Italy, and learn why and how they are using open data. Data collected will enable comparisons across sectors and uses and will inform the debate on how to leverage the value of open data. There’s a long way to go and for this reason, Open Data 200 Italia needs your help!
You can contribute by participating to our survey and populating the OD200 Italy directory. Contacts:,
Francesca De Chiara is an Italian sociologist who has been studying open data since its early release in Italy. She is a visiting Fellow at the Governance Lab and with the support of Fondazione Bruno Kessler, she will be conducting this project in collaboration with the members of the GovLab team at New York University. As part of the project, she will involve, supervise and coordinate Italian researchers and open data experts to map the use and measure the impacts of open data across the country.  

GovLab Blog Open Data

Improving Non-profits with Open Data

By Beth Noveck

Over 2000 delegates from around the world, including government officials, civil society organizations, and business leaders, arrived in Ottawa, Canada for the Third International Open Data Conference (IODC) on May 28th and 29. Although there is no single, universally accepted definition of open data, generally speaking, open data is publicly available data structured for usability and computability that can be universally and readily accessed, used, and redistributed free of charge. What potentially makes open data a powerful tool for governing better – and the reason why so many people are converging on Ottawa – is the ability of people inside and outside of institutions to use the same data to create useful policies, tools, visualizations, maps, and apps. Open data can provide the raw material to convene informed conversations about what’s broken and the empirical foundation for developing solutions.

One area where open data has the potential to make a real difference is state-level regulation of nonprofits. In May 2015, a multistate taskforce, comprising the Federal Trade Commission together with 58 agencies from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against the Cancer Fund group of nonprofits and the individuals who run them. The complaint alleges that the groups are sham charities that have engaged in “a massive, nationwide fraud, telling generous Americans that their contributions will help people suffering from cancer, but instead, spending the overwhelming majority of donated funds supporting the Individual Defendants, their families and friends, and their fundraisers.” State officials spotted telltale signs of abuse and fraud by studying information the organizations had submitted in their federal nonprofit tax returns and state-by-state registration forms.

Nonprofit tax returns and registration forms are the public’s (and the government’s) primary window into the workings of America’s enormous and economically impactful nonprofit sector, which all together pays $670 billion annually in wages and benefits. Every year in the United States, approximately 1.5 million registered tax-exempt organizations file a version of the federal “Form 990” with the IRS and state tax authorities. These forms — whose questions vary a bit depending on the type of organization — collect details on the financial, governance, and organizational structure of America’s universities, hospitals, foundations, and charities, to the end of ensuring that they are deserving of their tax exempt status. All but ten states also require that nonprofits operating in their states file state-specific registration forms. The information these filings contain about executive compensation, fundraising expenses, and donation activities, for example, can help regulators spot potential bad actors and alert each other to targets for further investigation.

Yet despite the richness and utility of the information contained in these filings, major barriers prevent state regulators from efficiently sharing and analyzing the data. Although every Form 990 is required by law to be open and available for public inspection, the IRS makes it a practice to print out the returns and scan them back in so that the resulting file is an image file, rather than in machine-readable electronic format (MeF). The IRS has followed this antiquated practice even for the large percentage of returns already filed digitally. State regulators, moreover, can in theory share and compare their registration data. But practically, the widespread use of hard-copy paper filings — along with differences in the formats used by states with electronic filing systems — makes pooling registration data extremely challenging. Where they exist, paper and analog systems also impose serious, needless delays on investigations.

What results from these barriers is a regulatory system unable to harness the full power of computable open data. In the current cancer charities case, good old-fashioned sleuthing and teamwork allowed state regulators to make do with the data they have. Between 2008 and 2012, it is asserted that the Cancer Fund group of nonprofits raised more than $187 million from donors throughout the U.S., but spent a pittance on actual aid to recipients, instead channeling the monies to themselves. But what if fully open, machine-readable 990 data had revealed suspicious patterns earlier? How many bad actors could be stopped if state regulators could more easily pool and analyze their registration data?

Thankfully, major efforts are underway to make nonprofit filing data more open. In January 2015, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the IRS must turn over the original, machine-readable versions of nine tax returns filed with the IRS to Plaintiff (Disclosure: I filed affidavits in the case on behalf of PublicResource and its demand to make these returns available). With the IRS now ordered to put the processes in place to release these returns electronically, the hope is that the marginal cost for releasing all electronically filed returns will have dropped to close to zero. Furthermore, several states are working together to create a single portal where nonprofits can register in all 40 states at once. Along with its obvious convenience, such a portal would give regulators access to an unprecedented body of interoperable, multi-state data. The Cancer Fund litigation demonstrates the key role that the State Attorneys General can and must play in cracking down on fraudulent charitable solicitations, an activity regulated at the state level.  One of the best ways to ensure state-level regulators have the information they need to more quickly and efficiently stop these bad actors in the future is to do what the law intends and open up the data.
GovLab Blog Open Data

Network of Innovators: Expert Networking for Open Data

By Arnaud Sahuguet, Andrew Young,  Beth Simone Noveck
Open data is a growing but still nascent field where innovators need all the help they can get to find technical, policy, and practical expertise for opening data and translating that data into impact.
At the IODC, we are testing the Network of Innovators, an expert network to help open data practitioners find the know how they need.
Expert networks are a relatively new phenomenon in the government context – with notable exceptions like the United States Air Force Research Lab’s Aristotle and Australia’s business-development-focused Expert Network. They have, however, existed in various fields for some time. VIVO connects scientists within and across disciplines to enable knowledge sharing and collaboration. Zapnito is even offering businesses the ability to create their own internal expert networks. And, of course, millions use LinkedIn build their professional networks.
At its core, an expert network is: (a) a database of people’s profiles with some rich information about them; (b) the ability to navigate the database along various dimensions;  and (c) the ability to take some concrete actions on the results.
This is actually not that different from a dating site when you think about 🙂

Designing the database

The first task at hand is the design of a people-centric schema to describe members of the network. Beyond the traditional and objective attributes – e.g. name, location, picture, education –  the schema must describe a set of skills and experiences related to the application domain, open data for us. Taxonomies and ontologies will be critical to make sure people use the same ‘language’ when describing their expertise.

Populating the database

Now that we have an empty database with a rich structure, it is time to populate it.
The most obvious approach is to have network members self-report information about themselves, with the well-known pitfalls – e.g., people bragging about expertise they don’t have or people omitting expertise they do. Another option is to have network members report about other members. This is what LinkedIn tries to achieve using endorsements. Yet another option is to rely on external sources to populate members’ profiles.
These various approaches can be used either separately or combined. Note the use of external sources has been working very well in academic fields where publications and patents are a rich source of expertise about people – Harvard Catalyst Profiles is a prime example.
The Network of Innovators adopts a blended approach. We combine open sources of data, such as basic conference registration information about who is attending the IODC, with self-reported data gleaned – not from open ended questions – but by asking people to identify the questions they could answer if asked. For example, how might I gain organizational approval for opening data?

Navigating the database

Just like for any information retrieval task, we have the choice between two complementary approaches: search and browse.
In the search mode, people looking for an expert will express their need using a query that will leverage the rich schema we described above. A query for an expert might include requirements for location, spoken language and, of course, expertise. The search interface might incorporate some extra knowledge such as synonyms, support for natural language and richer information about geography.
In the browse mode, people start from an entry point and start navigating along various dimensions, e.g., “people from the same country,” “people from the same organization,” “people speaking the same language,” etc.
Of course, a typical user might combine both approaches iteratively to find the best matches.
For each result set, the tool may also provide some nice visualization to help compare candidates and feature-rich profile pages.

Connecting with the experts

Once a set of experts has been identified, one can take some concrete actions, e.g. adding them to one’s address book or contacting them directly (via phone, email, SMS). More advanced social features can also be added, such as the ability to ‘follow’ people.
The modes of interaction and the actions that can be taken are largely network-specific and should respect people’s privacy and preferred way of interaction.
Two elements not to be ignored when building such an expert network are the engagement layer and the experiment layer. The former enriches the tool with dashboard and game mechanics to encourage people to continue use or to discover new features. The latter allows for A/B experiments and a better understanding of how the network is actually being used.

This is just the beginning

The technical components are a necessary but not sufficient condition for an expert network to be successful. Just like building any community (offline or online, see [2]), bootstrapping such a network is hard since early adopters will find little value in a largely uninhabited network. Other challenges include:

  • devising incentives to convince people to populate their profile and keep them fresh and accurate;
  • articulating a clear value proposition for people to actually use the network, especially on the demand side; and
  • motivating people to integrate the platform into existing workflow and communication processes.

In order to overcome the incentives challenge, we are testing the tool here at IODC where people are eager to learn from one another. But we will learn what works and what doesn’t.
The government setting poses another big challenge: asking for help and sometimes admitting ignorance is not necessarily part of the culture.
At GovLab, we are exploring some of these issues as part of our Network of Innovators project. Our first experiment will take place during the International Open Data Conference. We encourage you to try the app and visit our booth.

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Open Data 500 Korea Launches at IODC

Today at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada, the GovLab and the National Information Society Agency of Korea (NIA) announced  the Open Data 500 Korea. The study is the first of its kind in Korea, mapping the use of open data throughout the country. Korea is now the fourth member of the newly formed Open Data 500 Global Network, an international network of countries — including the United States, Mexico, and Australia — committed to studying the use and impact of open data.
The Open Data 500 Korea initiative will identify companies using open data in Korea, whose efforts can be studied to see which approaches work for which purposes and whose experience can provide useful feedback about open data policies to the government. The project emerges out of the Korean Open Data Law implemented in 2013.  It will be overseen by a team of government advisors in the Public Data Policy Division at the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA). It will also report to the Open Data Strategy Council of Korea, the decision-making body on open data in Korea, which is co-chaired by the Prime Minister and funded through MOHAGA.
The NIA’s initial goal is to identify 500 companies in Korea using open data and to present a careful summary of their experience, along with lessons learned,  at the 2015 Open Data Korea Forum in July. The website for the project, which includes a survey for companies to self-report their use of open data, will be officially launched in mid-June.
For more information about the project or to find out how your company can be included in the study, contact, or