'Data jams' take government into the practical open
One of the under-reported stories in the recent revelations about the NSA's surveillance program is that the U.S. Government -- the world’s largest consumer of information technology -- administers a vast reservoir of information that is not only publicly available, but encouraged to be shared freely. In an effort to spur innovation and improve the quality of services, this Digital Government Strategy grants all Americans access to high-quality datasets in categories ranging from Energy to Education, made available by agencies from the Geological Survey to NASA.
However, chances are you weren't aware that these mountains of data are available, or if you were, you wouldn't know what to do with it. "We have a lot of broad data," former Presidential Innovation Fellow Ian Kalin explains, "but we lock it behind websites where we put it in PDF files or just take forever to publish it." The dilemma, in Kalin's words, is that "while the government is very good at wholesale, it usually needs help with retail."
This begs the question: What if all the data the government has compiled -- from alternate transportation fuel consumption to median rent estimates for fair market rent areas -- was being used by innovators and business people, tech geeks and artists, civic activists and city leaders, to co-create real solutions for real people in real places? Would it be possible to bring different stakeholders together to turn the government's data warehouses into well-organized storefronts, accessible to all?