I attended the North Carolina Digital Government Summit last week.  The keynote speaker was Cynthia Storer, a former CIA analyst.  She made several comments that I found especially relevant:

  • information is power
  • strategic analysis = pointing something out that no one knew they needed to know
  • transparency is key to success

A session on Digital Analytics incorporated a quote from George Dyson: “Big data is what happened when the cost of storing information became less than the cost of making the decision to throw it away.”

A session on open data and crowdsourcing explained the eight principles that are considered key principles of open government data.  Here are some interesting examples of what state and local governments are doing with big data:

  • Seattle is posting 911 call data in real time
  • Montgomery County, Maryland, posts both the recommended and approved operating budgets for its municipal programs
  • New York’s Open Data Portal includes a list of application programming interfaces (APIs) that have been developed using its open data
  • House Facts Standard was deployed by San Francisco to report government data on the health and safety of residential buildings
  • Open311 was developed as a means of reporting public requests and has been adopted in cities such as Chicago
  • NC OneMap is a public service providing comprehensive discovery and access to North Carolina’s geospatial data resources
  • Raleigh has GIS data comparing current zoning with proposed UDO zoning

This range of uses of big data is fascinating in and of itself, but more striking is that it seems these governments are embracing the ideas put forth by Cynthia Storer:

  • information is power
  • strategic analysis = pointing something out that no one knew they needed to know
  • transparency is key to success

I don’t know the backstory to any of these open data projects, but it is fascinating to watch governments being proactive about sharing information.  It will be interesting to continue watching what develops at this intersection of transparent government, big data, and public records.

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