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Tag Archive: Gov 2.0

LexPop

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I hope that readers will spare a second to check out LexPop. It's a contribution to a problem that a lot of you are interested in: how to allow citizens into the legislative process to a greater degree. There's no question that that old machinery that we use for transmitting public opinion to lawmakers and rulemakers suffers from some serious pathologies. So I've been very glad to see efforts like POPVOX and Expert Labs emerge.

LexPop is working in that same vein. I met Matt Baca, one of the people behind the project, at an event last month, and was struck by the ambition of his experiment. LexPop isn't working at the federal scale, but the scope of what they're doing is large: they're trying to write a state law from start to finish. What makes the effort really fascinating is that they've got a legislator interested, ready to engage with the process. It's going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.

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Why Aren’t There More Open Data Startups?

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It's a question I'm seeing asked more and more: by press, by Gov 2.0 advocates, and by the online public. Those of us excited by the possibilities of open data have promised great things. So why is BrightScope the only government data startup that anyone seems to talk about?

I think it's important that those of us who value open data be ready with an answer to this question. But part of that answer needs to address the misperceptions built into the query itself.

There Are Lots of Open Data Businesses

BrightScope is a wonderful example of a business that sells services built in part on publicly available data. They've gotten a lot of attention because they started up after the Open Government Directive, after data.gov -- after Gov 2.0 in general -- and can therefore be pointed to as a validation of that movement.

But if we want to validate the idea of public sector information (PSI) being useful foundations for businesses *in general*, we can expand our scope considerably. And if we do, it's easy to find companies that are built on government data: there are databases of legal decisions, databases of patent information, medicare data, resellers of weather data, business intelligence services that rely in part on SEC data, GIS products derived from Census data, and many others.

Some of these should probably be free, open, and much less profitable than they currently are*. But all of them are examples of how genuinely possible it is to make money off of government data. It's not all that surprising that many of the most profitable uses of PSI emerged before anyone started talking about open data's business potential. That's just the magic of capitalism! This stuff was useful, and so people found it and commercialized it. The profit motive meant that nobody had to wait around for people like me to start talking about open formats and APIs. There are no doubt still efficiencies to be gained in improving and opening these systems, but let's not be shocked if a lot of the low-hanging commercial fruit turns out to have already been picked.

Still, surely there are more opportunities out there. A lot of new government data is being opened up. Some of it must be valuable... right?

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9 Beliefs at the Heart of Open Government

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As we begin to engage the public in a regular, and sustained campaign to bring about the full potential for accountability and economic opportunity that open government promises, it's important hat we have some common principles and assumptions about where we're coming from and where we stand. And it's time to start clearly defining what those things are.

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