The point of my trip down memory lane is this: without a ski area, proper instruction, and lots of practice, all that gear would have been meaningless. The same goes for data. Making it available is an important first step, but it isn’t enough. It has to be meaningful. The key is uncovering the meaning. And to do that, we need data that’s consumable, and data discovery platforms like Qlik Sense that empower us to find meaning in the data. And as with skiing, practice is essential. We need to get out there and explore—try something, learn from our mistakes, and make improvements.
Cause for Excitement
My intent isn’t to disparage open data. Quite the opposite—accessing government data is the first step towards transparency. So while open data isn’t a new idea, what is “new” is the volume of data available to us.
The United States has made tremendous strides in improving data transparency since the Office of Management and Budget first issued the Open Government Directive in 2009. Data.gov is now home to nearly 130,000 data sets and growing. In February, President Obama announced DJ Patil as the nation’s first Chief Data Scientist. Next month, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget will announce new data standards for federal spending under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.
Governments around the world have been racing to follow suit. In fact, some developing nations are experimenting with making their data available to reduce poverty and improve quality of life. Some have cited 2014 as the year that open data went “mainstream,” with nearly all governments citing it as a top priority.
The open data movement is a global phenomenon moving at warp speed. What we need to do now is place as much emphasis on using the data as we have on making it available. Some governments are well on their way. For example, the DC government hosts Track DC, a site leveraging Qlik to empower citizens to explore and analyze performance measures, agency budgets, and spending.
So will open data save the world? No, but it’s a good start and one of many factors that will help make the world a better place. With the right data, the right tools, and some great minds: government, industry and citizens collectively can accomplish something meaningful and remarkable.