The Quiet Revolution: Open Data Is Transforming Citizen-Government Interaction

Maury Blackman at Wired: “The public’s trust in government is at an all-time low. This is not breaking news.
But what if I told you that just this past May, President Obama signed into law a bill that passed Congress with unanimous support. A bill that could fundamentally transform the way citizens interact with their government. This legislation could also create an entirely new, trillion-dollar industry right here in the U.S. It could even save lives.
On May 9th, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) became law. There were very few headlines, no Rose Garden press conference.
I imagine most of you have never heard of the DATA Act. The bill with the nerdy name has the potential to revolutionize government. It requires federal agencies to make their spending data available in standardized, publicly accessible formats.  Supporters of the legislation included Tea Partiers and the most liberal Democrats. But the bill is only scratches the surface of what’s possible.
So What’s the Big Deal?
On his first day in Office, President Obama signed a memorandum calling for a more open and transparent government. The President wrote, “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” This was followed by the creation of, a one-stop shop for all government data. The site does not just include financial data, but also a wealth of other information related to education, public safety, climate and much more—all available in open and machine-readable format. This has helped fuel an international movement.
Tech minded citizens are building civic apps to bring government into the digital age; reporters are now more able to connect the dots easier, not to mention the billions of taxpayer dollars saved. And last year the President took us a step further. He signed an Executive Order making open government data the default option.
Cities and states have followed Washington’s lead with similar open data efforts on the local level. In San Francisco, the city’s Human Services Agency has partnered with Promptly; a text message notification service that alerts food stamp recipients (CalFresh) when they are at risk of being disenrolled from the program. This service is incredibly beneficial, because most do not realize any change in status, until they are in the grocery store checkout line, trying to buy food for their family.
Other products and services created using open data do more than just provide an added convenience—they actually have the potential to save lives. The PulsePoint mobile app sends text messages to citizens trained in CPR when someone in walking distance is experiencing a medical emergency that may require CPR. The app is currently available in almost 600 cities in 18 states, which is great. But shouldn’t a product this valuable be available to every city and state in the country?…”