Nov 13 2014

Counties, Cities to Boost Open Data Investments

A new survey found local governments were more likely than federal and state entities to increase open data spending.

Investments in open data initiatives are rising at all levels of government, especially in counties and cities, where decision-makers expect to increase funding in the next six months, according to a new survey.

Seattle-based Socrata, which specializes in democratizing access to government data, surveyed 961 federal, state and local government employees. Eighty percent said they would invest money and resources in open data initiatives. Of those, 28 percent said they would invest more money, and 52 percent said funding would remain the same.

“Respondents from counties and cities are the most likely to say they are going to invest more, though significant proportions of federal and state respondents also say they will be increasing their investment,” according to Socrata’s Open Data Benchmark Report.

Here’s how Socrata defines open data:

“Open data is a growing industry built around the concept of collecting, organizing and publishing data to be consumed by a range of audiences. Making data open is the act of taking any government-collected or aggregated data — from government financial assets, to the number of water fountains in Manhattan, to the vast database of the U.S. Census — and providing it to users for them to consume, manipulate and create from.”

StateTech has reported on open data policies in several cities, including San Francisco and Boston, as well as Washington, D.C. The Socrata study notes that 89 percent of respondents are approaching open data proactively. Nearly half — 48 percent — are focused on making the most important and useful data open, but that isn’t the case for all data. The other 41 percent said their goal is to make as much data open as possible.

Support and direction from leadership is key to pursuing open data initiatives for 72 percent of those surveyed. The Nov. 4 elections have some people wondering if existing open data efforts will be disrupted because of leadership changes in government.

Open Data Benefits Public and Private Sector Business

The overwhelming majority of government employees — 86 percent — agree that open data initiatives increase government engagement with the public. Eight-three percent said those initiatives increase trust.

In some cases, open data is driving economic development, including direct benefits such as new businesses, job growth and increased tax revenues.

Companies such as Zillow,, Trulia, Estately and Redfin are using publicly available government data to offer innovative services, according to a 2013 White House blog postAt the federal level, President Barack Obama issued an executive order last year making open and machine-readable the new default for government information.

In the blog, President Obama was quoted as saying open data will "help launch more startups. It’s going to help launch more businesses. It’s going to help more entrepreneurs come up with products and services that we haven’t even imagined yet.”

Wahyu b. Pratomo/thinkstock