Open Data

NYU project touts 500 top open-data firms

bar chart made of $100

Open-data evangelists like U.S. CTO Todd Park and his deputy, Nick Sinai, typically select from the same basket of name-brand companies -- think real estate firms Zillow and Trulia -- when touting the ability of government data to fuel for-profit enterprises. Now they have a bigger basket.

The Governance Lab at New York University published on Dec. 17 its preliminary list of the Open Data 500 – an honor roll of businesses that tap into federal, state, local, and other data streams to build services.

Sinai singled out the efforts of a firm called Climate Corporation, which made the Open Data 500. The company uses data from a variety of government sources -- NASA, NOAA, the Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Geological Survey -- to predict weather conditions in order to price crop insurance for hard-to-insure crops like blueberries.

"What's exciting is not what we're doing inside our government, but how the private sector is taking our data and creating all kinds of innovative things," Sinai said.

A recent McKinsey report estimated that $3 trillion in value could be unlocked through open data initiatives worldwide, with one-third of that coming thorough savings in procurement arising from better benchmarking, according to Michael Chui of the McKinsey Global Institute.

The roster of companies on the Open Data 500 "reflects the fact that open government data is a key business resource for new and existing companies around the country, and is being used in a variety of ways and across many sectors,” Joel Gurin, senior adviser at the GovLab and director of the Open Data 500 study, said in a release announcing publication of the list.

Sinai said agencies are keeping their part of the open-data bargain, by continuing to make datasets available, building out data repositories at individual agencies, as well as pushing data into the Data.gov website. a government-wide catalog of available datasets.

All agencies were operating under a Nov. 30 deadline to produce data inventories and online catalogs, but only 12 have fully complied so far, according to Sinai. He said  more announcements will be coming next year on the development of online personalized services to help users track their interactions with government.

"We're still just scratching the surface here," Sinai said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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