Data has exploded past its nascent phase as an answer to improved transparency
into a full-fledged movement that permeates all levels of everyday life. Giving
citizens access to the troves of public data gathered by the government has
triggered a windfall of technology and programs that are improving the lives of
people everywhere, in very tangible ways.
1. APIs translate data
into a common, accessible language
Data works because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By compiling
volumes of existing data into one place, government gives citizens the raw
material for all kinds of new services and solutions. Hackers and developers
can use public data sets to create apps and crunch data in ways that were not
possible due to data being locked in separate silos.
example, New York City’s “Geek Squad” of data analysts recently found correlations between
geo-spatial sewer data and health department inspections information that led
to a 95 percent success rate in tracking down restaurants that were illegally
dumping grease and clogging up the sewer lines. In Chicago, developers created TowText, a smart phone app
that sends you a text message within minutes of your car being towed. Serving
data to the public via APIs is providing citizens with real-time data that they
can use to solve civic problems.
The true power of an
API is that it grants developers access to data in real time. A great example
of the relevance of real time data is TowText, the Chicago city app that alerts
drivers within minutes of their car being towed.
2. Open Data accelerates
Data is not just a first world commodity; it’s being used to promote
transparency and increase services all around the world. In 2011, Kenya became
the first developing country to host an Open Data portal.
site has over 500 data sets so developers are
able to harness the data the government is already collecting and translate it
into information that empowers citizens. Portal-derived apps are currently
helping Kenyans choose the best
schools for their children and locate the best health
facilities for their medical needs. Open Data is the currency that’s elevating
Kenya’s community of programmers and hackers to a recognized part of the
globally, the World Bank is using their Open
Data portal to provide unprecedented transparency about country funding. Users
can sort by country to see how much
money is given or received in loans and grants. Ultimately, the World Bank
hopes that transparency will help reduce corruption and waste so citizens can
get the full value of aid.
Kenya’s Open Data
portal is empowering citizens to choose the best schools with up-to-date, rich,
3. Consumers benefit
from unprecedented transparency
Data is leveling the playing field between consumers and businesses by arming consumers
with information. Current instances include exposing discrepancies in Medicare
billings, leading the consumer rights fight with credit card companies, and exposing
airline complaints. In all of these cases, issues were found when all of the
data was brought together and made open. For example, should the same
gallbladder surgery at one hospital be billed to Medicare at more than
twice the cost at a hospital less than 45 minutes away? Shouldn’t diners
have access to health inspections as readily as they
do Yelp reviews? These are the kinds of common sense improvements that greater
data disclosure can help to drive.
Social media made it
possible for people to find restaurants with delicious food. But Open Data is
exposing which restaurants run a clean kitchen, as well.
Socrata, we’ve been on the leading edge of this Open Data movement since the
very beginning. Our cloud-based solution helps democratize access to data with turnkey,
practical products. We’ve been chosen as the data sharing platform of
forward-thinking governments in the US like New York City, Chicago, San
Francisco, and Maryland, and ubiquitous organizations like the United Nations,
Department of Health & Human Services, and the Consumer Finance Protection
Bureau. Now available as part of the Azure infrastructure, we’re poised to help
more European and LATAM governments, NGOs, and citizen groups realize the
potential that Open Data holds. Read our press release—Socrata’s Suite of Open Data
Solutions Now Available on Windows Azure Worldwide—or visit http://www.socrata.com for more information
on our solutions.
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