Open Data 500: Intersection of open data and the economy

Open data has been top of mind for many government officials this year as they have taken on the latest challenge from the administration and the public: complete data transparency.

And very soon, people will have a look into which government data sets companies are using and how that data is being leveraged.

In late December, New York University’s GovLab released the beta version of its Open Data 500 project. The initiative, which kicked off nearly three months ago, identifies companies that use government data. The project also describes and analyzes how companies use that data, to gain an understanding into how it can better meet business needs.

Preliminary results of the Open Data 500 found open data is a significant resource for a host of different businesses across the U.S., from one-person operations to companies with thousands of employees. These companies using open data are building economic value in health, energy, transportation, finance and other sectors of the economy.

2013_12_Screen-Shot-2013-12-23-at-1.07.05-PM The Open Data 500 site lists the companies participating in the survey and categorizes them by status of their survey submission.

An October report by McKinsey & Company seems to agree with the basis of the Open Data 500. The study found open data can help unlock as much as $3-5 trillion across seven sectors annually and spur entrepreneurship all over the country.

According to the report, the benefits of open data can be self-reinforcing. As people realize the advantages and work to improve the accuracy of the data available, the benefits will increase.

“Our working list of companies reflects the fact that open government data is a key business resource for new and existing companies around the country being used in a variety of ways and across many sectors,” said Joel Gurin, senior adviser at the GovLab and director of the Open Data 500 study.

These 50 companies profiled for early release range from real estate websites, personal health care services, and weather data.


Several companies have surfaced over the past few years to make health care information more accessible and enable patients to make informed decisions about their health care. A company called iTriage uses data sets from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, Home Health Facilities, mental health and substance abuse clinics, community health clinics, among many others, to provide health care information through its app and website. Healthgrades, HealthPocket, Inc. and Symcat are other companies using similar health care data sets.

Real estate companies are also leveraging open government data to make more information available to homeowners and shoppers. Trulia, a real estate website that gives homebuyers, sellers, renters and owners information on real estate professionals, uses earthquake, hurricane and tornado data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sites.

In August, President Barack Obama did a live Q&A with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, and the president applauded real estate companies like Zillow for using open data. Zillow, which is participating in the Open Data 500 but wasn’t part of the ministudy, uses data from the Federal Housing Agency, Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Synthicity, Construction Monitor LLC and BuildZoom are other real estate companies participating in the beta version of the Open Data 500, and they use city permit, state contractor and zoning data sets.

Several companies use government data sets for governance and legal purposes.


Way Better Patents uses data from the Federal Procurement Data System, the National Science Foundation and U.S. Patent Trade Office use bulk patent downloads. SeeClickFix allows anyone to report and track nonemergency issues anywhere in the world with the Internet and is meant to empower citizens and local governments to improve their communities. Other companies such as StreetCred Software, Inc. and SpotCrime use local police and court records to provide a resource of crime information.

The Open Data 500 website lists all 500 companies participating in the project and the status of the survey results. The survey involves general questions about the nature of the company, the data sets it uses and which data sets aren’t available that would be useful to have access to.

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