Open Data Day is the new Earth Day

A picture of the Earth on a keyboard.
Photo credit: Marcela Palma/Flickr

Open Data Day is the new Earth Day — and it’s happening tomorrow! Four years ago, David Eaves (along with Mary Beth Baker, Daniel Beauchamp, Pedro Markun, Edward Ocampo-Gooding and Daniela Silva) had a conversation that led to the genesis of an international day of data liberation, advocacy, analysis and civic hacking all converged around the central motivating theme of open data. With over 110 locations participating in Open Data Day around the world tomorrow, and countless communities, organizations and governments facilitating, Open Data Day has — much like Earth Day — come to demonstrate collective support of an emerging global consensus and vision for the future.

The term “open data” is growing ever more ubiquitous and is much more common as a U.S. government policy practice at all jurisdictional levels. With the current tally of open data policies at the in the United States (including administrative memos, executive orders and laws) being twenty-seven — and with more than eleven open data bills in the works, including many state efforts — the trend toward lasting administrative policy and laws creating sustainable open data ecosystems seems to be only rising. As open data becomes more synonymous with good governance, passing a strong policy to frame and lead data release (as well as learning from best practices) will continue to grow in importance. We at Sunlight are continuing our open data policy advocacy and providing local U.S. best practices for policy and data release and invite everyone to get involved in their local communities tomorrow.

If you’re looking for ways to get involved with the open data movement, check out some celebrations happening tomorrow below by different actors (and leave yours in the comments!):

The International Open Data Day website (and wiki) — The International Open Data Day website rounds up local events, as well as providing guidance, ideas for hacking (including filing an “Old School” FOI request or requesting “New School” datasets via a data portal) and highlights of projects planned for this weekend. Check out a sampling (via David Eaves) of projects happening around the world tomorrow:

  1. Capetown & Johannesburg, South Africa is conducting 30-minute open data learning challenges.
  2. Buenos Aires, Argentina is creating open data street art.
  3. Greenfield, Mass. is creating a crowdsourcing platform to geolocate private wells.
  4. Nagoya, Japan is hacking on Nagoya Castle-specific open data.
  5. Cairo, Egypt is hacking on an Open Data Handbook, stories, scrapers and an inventory.

Participate in CodeAcross — In collaboration with Code for America and the Open Knowledge Foundation, Sunlight has gathered project ideas for CodeAcross to hack on your local city. Among them are:

  1. Open data policy advocacy — Whether your jurisdiction has an open data policy on the books or has not yet considered one, we have outlined active ways you can advocate for a lasting open data ecosystem. As always, reach out to for resources or questions.
  2. Create an open civic data scraper — If you’re a fan of Sunlight’s Open States project or looking for a quick meaningful scraper project that plugs into a larger community, consider scraping your local government representative data and applying the Open Civic Data IDs (one piece of Google’s Civic Information API).
  3. U.S. city open data inventory — The first step to open data is understanding what data you already have. Finally, there is a U.S. local version of the international Open Data Index. Check to see what #CodeAcross cities have open datasets (in addition to datasets like Crime and Zoning) that help you hold your representatives accountable, such as asset disclosure data, campaign finance data and lobbying data.

Vendors — Vendors have also rallied to assist in opening data for the holiday, with Socrata and SeeClickFix teaming up to provide easily downloadable 311 data by neighborhood, and ESRI’s announcement to make it easier for governments to release their geospatial data in open formats by next month.

Check out D.C. Open Data Day — In Sunlight’s backyard, D.C. Open Data Day will be held at the World Bank hosted by a mod squad of open data advocates. With more than 500 people registered, it should be quite an open data celebration. In addition to civic-hacking there will be introductory workshops on: Open Data, Open Collaboration and Open Mapping and Python. Check out all of the planned projects here. If you’re in D.C., please say Hi to the Sunlight local team!


Four years in, with increased participation, and increased momentum around the open data movement, I think Open Data Day is here to stay. If you’re a fan of Open Data Day, be sure to check out: Anti-Corruption Day, International Internet Day, Software Freedom Day, Freedom of Information Day, Sunshine Week, and Public Domain Day (which some other folks call ‘New Years’). Also a reminder: Sunlight Foundation’s very own annual celebration, TransparencyCamp is just around the bend, register today!