Improving Lives with Open Data

A new article from the New York Times discusses the multitude of improvements that transparent data can have on our everyday lives: “Governments have learned a cheap new way to improve people’s lives. Here is the basic recipe: Take data that you and I have already paid a government agency to collect, and post it online in a way that computer programmers can easily use. Then wait a few months. Voilà! The private sector gets busy, creating Web sites and smartphone apps that reformat the information in ways that are helpful to consumers, workers and companies.”

The article goes on to discuss several specific applications and programs that have arisen since the advent of For example, “For some years, Bay Area transit systems had been tracking the locations of their trains and buses via onboard GPS. Then someone got the bright idea to post that information in real time. Thus the delightful app Routesy was born. Install it on a smartphone and the app can tell you that your bus is stuck in traffic and will be 10 minutes late — or it can help you realize that you are standing on the wrong street, dummy.”

The data on is also now being used “as a tool for regulation, and as a method of avoiding more heavy-handed rule making. The idea is that making things more transparent can immediately turn consumers into better shoppers and make markets work better.”

Publically available data is also being utilized in response to the recent earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Developers have taken data regarding recent earthquakes – including the 8.9 quake that struck off the coast of Honshu – to create a worldwide earthquake interactive map, among other applications.

You can learn more about applications for government data by attending the Open Government track at SemTech this June.

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