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May 7, 2014

Open Data Initiative Looks to Seed New Markets

George Leopold

A comprehensive survey of U.S. companies using open government data seeks to determine how they are using public information to generate new businesses and develop new products and services.

The study, Open Data 500, is being overseen by a research network called the Governance Lab. GovLab is a privately funded initiative based at New York University that is examining how government data is being put to use. Study goals include determining the economic value of government data, encouraging new open data companies and fostering a government-industry dialogue on how government data can be tailored to promote economic growth.

So far, the group said five government agencies have agreed to participate in the effort to encourage businesses to leverage U.S. data. Among the U.S. technology companies participating in the open government data effort are Amazon Web Services, Garmin, IBM, chipmaker Intel and Yelp, the online business rgovlabating service.

Combining public and private data sets shifts technology “from the era of searching to the era of discovery,” Intel’s Brandon Barnett recently told the Washington Post.

In March, Intel invested $740 million in Cloudera, giving the chipmaker an 18 percent stake in the distributor of big data software. In announcing the investment, Intel said it would make Cloudera its preferred distributor of Hadoop data management software.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the Cloudera investment was intended to bring big data “into the mainstream.” It also represents an attempt to by the microprocessor giant to enter data markets as the PC era runs its course.

Hence, companies like Intel are looking for new opportunities in the emerging market for big data. Conversely, attracting high profile members like Intel and IBM raises the profile of public data initiatives like GovLab.

GovLab said it has also developed what it calls an “Open Data Compass” used to illustrate which industries use data from specific government agencies.

Among GovLab’s research initiatives is “Open Data Governance,” an effort designed to push data out to citizens that can be used to address specific issues. For example, government data on hospital infection records could help developers create a hospital safety search engine that could be used by the parents of a sick child to select a hospital with the best infection record.

The group said it plans to use the results of the open data study during a series of roundtable meetings between government agencies and business that use government data. One goal is to improve the processes and priorities for releasing government data.

The Commerce Department, which gathers huge amounts of economic, weather and other valuable data, will be among the first federal agencies participating in the effort.

Beyond that, GovLab said it hopes to expand its efforts to other countries. The group is currently in discussions with national governments and international organizations to replicate the open data study in other countries.