Commerce puts best foot forward in open data


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2014_04_Screen-Shot-2014-04-08-at-5.40.20-PM A screenshot of the ‘Open Data Compass,’ which tells what types of companies use agencies data.

The government faces various challenges, but there is one that is universal among agencies: unleashing data.

The Center for Data Innovation today hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event, to highlight new findings of where government data is most useful.

Joel Gurin, senior adviser at the GovLab and the mind behind the Open Data 500 project, announced the results of the projects findings. The Open Data 500, which has been in the works since September 2013, is the first comprehensive study of U.S. companies that use government data.

According to those findings, the Commerce Department far surpassed other agencies in terms of the number of companies using its data. More than 120 companies use data from Commerce, followed by 75 that use data from the Department of Health and Human Services, and 42 companies use data from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Commerce Department is also taking the lead by being the first government agency to host a new series of roundtables announced by the GovLab today. The roundtables will bring together agencies and companies that use government data, as an effort to improve the processes and generate conversation. The departments of Labor, Treasury and Transportation will also be participating in the roundtables, and Commerce will be kicking off the first one.

The undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, Mark Doms, said he expects to see more of these public-private joint ventures in the future.

“Thinking of how we can complement the data we’ve collected, and couple it with data from the private sector to make that data more useful,” he said.

He also noted the biggest challenges as a data provider is in extracting the most possible value out of it.

“There’s a tsunami of information,” Doms said. “We’re faced with ‘how do we make that tsunami more valuable?’ How do we make this information more valuable?’ We want the best data in the hands of the end users.”

The types of companies featured in the Open Data 500 vary, but the top three are data/technology, finance and investment, and business and legal services.

The event also featured a panel with Gurin, Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, Erie Meyer, senior adviser to the U.S. chief technology officer, and Waldo Jaquith, director of the U.S. Open Data Institute.

Meyer, who has been at OSTP since fall 2013, announced the launch of, which highlights examples of entrepreneurs and innovators using open data and the data sets they use.

On behalf of OSTP and her boss, federal CTO Todd Park, Meyer reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to open data leads. The administration is working with every agency to ensure each has a lead open data person. The goal is also for all agencies to have a chief data officer.

Until now, only the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Communications Commission have hired chief data officers. Meyer also noted these open data leads at each agency have been meeting every two weeks with folks from OSTP, giving demos, hearing from industry experts and sharing best practices.

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data analytics, open data, Tech