Does Open Government Data Equal Big Money for Entrepreneurs?

The answer appears to be yes, if you have the right construct and development skills. There are a few hurdles to jump over, but the possibilities are endless.  

I attended Opening up the Government’s Vault of Data at SXSW, and was inspired by the panelists. From monitoring the life cycle of a federal contract to ensure expenditures did not increase to answering the question, “How many pencils did the government purchase this year?." These questions can all be answered with the application of open government data. And why? – for total transparency, which is needed now more than ever as the digital age rockets forward.   


  • Federal government is increasingly looking to the private sector to provide clean efficient results, if they can get through the procurement process. 

  • There is a HUGE need to analyze/report on the over 192k data sets available via 

  • More and more data is being converting into machine readable format making it easier for the end user to manipulate. 


  • Lack of data unification. For example, at the U.S. Census Bureau questions change from census to census, making it hard to quantify results. 

  • Important systems often do not “talk” to each other. If a VA patient left medication at home while traveling, it could take up to 9 hours for records to be accessed from a local VA office. 

  • Stale technology in federal government. The culture towards IT needs to drastically improve at all levels. IT should never be the first cut on a budget, which it often is. Systems must be upgraded. If the CIA finally joined the cloud, then ALL agencies should follow suit. 


What’s Next?  

I challenge anyone with an interest in big data to go to and poke around. I personally would love to see more government data ‘hackathons’ where new discoveries and real world problems can be solved from data that we already possess. These lessons don't only apply to the federal government. The lessons can be applied at the local and state level as well. Arlington County has already implemented an open data portal and I’m excited to watch the evolving transparency with data.   

How is your startup leveraging government data? Do you find the lessons from this panel to be accurate? 

Topic: BIG Update
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